Spirit of the Dead Watching (Manao tupapau)
Genre: Oil on canvas
- Bertman, Sandra
- Date of entry: Oct-09-1997
- Last revised: Nov-23-1997
A Tahitian female lies naked on her belly, terrified by the presence of the spirit of death. Behind her, with an averted phosphorescent eye, the spirit is personified in the form of a harmless old woman dressed in a black shawl. According to island mythology, the title has two meanings: either the young girl is thinking of the ghost, or the ghost is thinking of her. Bold ambiguous shapes and colors (yellow blanket, blue pareu, phosporescent greenish sparks on a violet background) intensify the eerie atmosphere and enigmatic quality of the painting.
Dated 1892. Symbolist art is characterized by timelessness, the abstract, and ambiguity.
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, N.Y.