Paul Gauguin La Perte de Pucelage
Paul Gauguin, La Perte de Pucelage

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been finishing off the ‘interpretation’ material for the Gauguin exhibition. This includes the exhibition leaflet, which everybody gets when they buy a ticket, the ‘mission statement’ for the exhibition as a whole, introductory texts for each gallery and explanatory texts for individual works of art. At Tate, we allow ourselves about ninety words to discuss a work in further detail. Here’s Gauguin’s ‘La perte de pucelage’, one of his most mysterious and complex paintings. Remembering that the subtitle to our exhibition is ‘Maker of Myth’, do you fancy writing a ninety-word caption for this painting? If so, send it in…and on Friday, I’ll let you know what we wrote…


Emma Gibbs

This richly, and somewhat unrealistically coloured painting evokes a strong sense of eroticism. The sly fox places his paw suggestively on the young woman's chest; his rather evil slanting eyes suggests this is not a protective gesture. The strong use of red by Gauguin brings feelings of lust and perhaps danger into the painting. The disappearing crowd in the background makes the viewer aware of the girl's solitary position; she is left quite alone with the evil fox, who could possibly be used by the artist to symbolise a preying older gentleman. The boldly outlined forms give a patterned effect to the painting; the image has a primitive appearance. Reminding us of images used to depict folklore. This flattened quality removes the image from reality: perhaps we are seeing one of Gauguin's dreams. It is left to the viewer to decide if we are witnessing a fantasy or a nightmare.


A woman's best friend is her dog

Tatiana Ferahian

Like in many myths, "La perte du pucelage'"--otherwise known as "The Loss of Virginity”--seems to explore the relationships between humans and animals. Myths about the fox--its association with evil or danger--frequently cast the fox in an unappealing light. However, in Asia, the fox also represents sexual seductiveness. That is why this painting has dualistic qualities; it evokes a mood which can be alluring yet very disturbing to the viewer. In addition to all that symbolism the stark juxtaposition of the colours also intensifies the tension and the atmosphere.

Amber Giles

In solidarity they sought the pursuit of beauty. Two beings of a different kind merged into a unification of souls, in harmonious rhythm with the fertile earth. From the womb of the hill they gave birth to the passions of the senses. God had penetrated their lands and eternity came into existence and blessed them forever more.


La perte du pucelage/ the loss of virginity, a painting that creates tension and atmosphere, eroticism and disturbance and mixes abstract and naturalism, it is symbolic in its form and rich in Gaugain's use of Tahitian colour. The sole attention is on the minimalist form of the naked woman, who lies mysteriously stiff and still amongst the fiery backdrop, and is left entirely separated from her surroundings as she lingers in this uncomfortable isolation or alternatively, this blissful solitude.

Julia Bohanna

The furious colours of the landscape had made her feel dowdy, dizzy, delirious with the joy of it all. Quickly she shed her clothes and lay in the haze of the blue and pink grass. Then she called others, to come to the cult of the garish landscape and to cast off their garments. Her dog, already naked and buttered by sunshine, lay near her head listening to her ministry.

Soon there would be bodies strewn on every blade of grass, praising colour, deep in the joy she had spread.

Mercedes F

Unsigned and not dated, almost like finding what the girl on the field has lost. Using characteristic French symbolism, bringing together abstract and nature, Gauguin both feeds and knocks the myth that defined lines exist between childhood and adulthood. perhaps we should consider what she has found against what she will never get back. Now a woman, what will happen when she rises from this slumber?

Jayant B. Joshi

"Emotional Dream"

Simon Weekes

"The quick, brown fox jumped over the lazy woman"


For Fuck Sake ... they took my coffin!

Julie C.

I shouldn't have had that last margarita.

Baju Wijono

Men are bipolar, Dog is good ;)

ed bowie

while recovering from the night before, she took 'the hair of the dog' a bit too literally...


Everyone has left her there to die but the loving dog stayed beside her comforting her to sleep by stroking her breast. But! what he really wanted was the dead mouse she was holding in her hand, so he waited patiently until her last breath.


Dear Christine, You may get thousands of emails each day and I won't make this one long to save your time. I am not going to write caption on Gouguin's painting as it's not practical to write anything good about a painting one hasn't seen yet (which I will soon). What I wanted your advise for was as follows: I am an art student (not in a student year age range but not too old either) and I study the History of Art for BA degree which will be accomlished within the year or so. My passion for art made me dream for many years to be close to the Cultures of Display such as Tate Modern and other institutions displaying art that I love so much. I am thinking of persuing my career as a Curator and would appreciate an advise from someone like yourself to how to get there. Currently I do volunteering at the local art centre for as much as I can to learn the skills. If you ever need an assistant to pass your knowledge to, I am positive that I am that peson! This may sound absurd and naive but one has to start somewhere! Kind Regards and best of luck for this forthcoming great exhibition that I am going to visit on 7th of November. Maya

Nicola Corrigan

Toe curlingly suffused, sated and saturated by sunshine, sensuality and sensibility. She lies marbled, naked, encircled by a berried crimson pasture, atop a summit of lush lustfull cobalt fringed satisfaction. Azure water shimmers and mirrors the lovers, lapping the dampening humidity of their day and cooling their ardour, animal attraction, admiration and aching adoration.


Using flat sharp colours and synthetic fluent forms, Gauguin stages some private tension between a subtly domesticated melancholy and an atmosphere populated by wild, intimate silence.

Ligia Kempfer

our nature is animal. only humans have forgotten.

Ligia Kempfer

our nature is animal. only humans have forgotten.

freddy stockton

'La perte de pucelage'.I'm not going to paint obvious blazing sunshine darling, I'm doing to slash in a distant island a bit of ocean a cloud and background, and most bizarrly a queue of people sort of waiting for something...their turn perhaps..I am going to turn myself into an animal and paint myself cuddling up to you and give myself a knowing expression and you are going to look like you are devoted to the animal that I am..queue the french windows..French windows don't queue..ninety


Surveying the flowers always makes for a long day. Prone and satisfied with her selection she thinks, "Ummmm. Outfoxed them again."

Karsten schubert

Christine, do you actually ever think before you post this embarrassing garbage in the name of Tate?


So, what did you expect,SUPERMAN ??

ed bowie

the locals didnt know what to make of amy winehouse...

Victoria Evans

Gauguin's unsigned and undated painting was produced during his Tahiti period, due to the colour arrangement. In this painting Gauguin has transformed himself into the cunning fox. Away from his family Gauguin begins to fantasise and by doing so we find an eroticised girl whom seems comfortable with the fox yet her toes are clenched suggesting tenseness with the situation. The fox greets the viewer and we are left with an uncomfortable feeling. Perhaps we have interrupted a happening that lurks at the bottom of Gauguin's mind.


"Foxy I come"


This painting could simply represent "the rest of pleasure"


"Bloody hell love, suck a polo or something"

Debbie Baker

La perte du picalage/the loss of virginity, here we see a beautiful, young lady, recovering perhaps from her first intimate experience with a man, a feeling of contentment and abandonment. In one hand she holds a flower, a symbol of sweetness and femininity, in the other she caresses a beautiful wild animal, perhaps symbolising the wild abandonment of her actions. This painting gives the viewer a feeling of complete satisfaction and contentment.

Diane Kunzelman

The fox said slyly, "Did I not say you are not even ripe yet"? and dreaming she replied, "Shall I never be the same again?"

Michael Sloaney

Crippled with an eye watering and deliciously excruciating hangover, I reached blindly for the headache tablets in the kitchen draw and instead of resting my fumbling hands upon sugar coated pain relief, I unwittingly ingest the dogs worming tablets. I took 3, I do still have a headache but on the upside have stopped pulling myself across the kitchen floor on my arse and as I lie naked in a field with a fox making shapes out of the clouds, I marvel at the intense colours I now view the world in, courtesy of my drug roulette and know that I've definitely had worse Thursdays!

Evan Tyler Stallone

In Gauguin's "La Perte du Pucelage”/ ”The Loss of Virginity,” we, the viewers, are witnessing the moment after the innocence has been taken away from this young, fair skinned woman. The dog that she lovingly embraces represents the viciousness of man as he claims his partner. Then, as we look beyond our lovers, we see a wild and unpredictable landscape with a crowd of dark skinned foreigners who appear to be in the midst of long journey through the fiery fields. The narrow path they walk on eventually leads to a calming sea which ascends towards the heavenly sky.

Michael Sloaney

This was left courtesy of the Mamma and Pappa Mosquito at Mosquitoinc

Victoria Hinault

This Gauguin painting shows why his work became synonymous with the early Modern Art movement. The bright bold blocks of colours in the landscape provide a sharp contrast to that of the woman at the forefront of the piece. The light colour of the woman against a dark background is representative of the theme. The fox, a symbol of passion in this piece is a signifier for the act that has just occurred. The woman is embracing the animal suggesting that she too was embracing "The Loss of Virginity.”


This is a romance between a woman and her dog. See the possessive look in the dogs eye and the way it has it's paw on the naked woman's heart while shes asleep, the dog is protecting her. The woman has picked a flower holding it tenderly in her hand while she wraps her other arm around the neck of the dog as she would her lover.

Beth Zeen

Beware as Kitsune takes her female form, ready to enchant the villagers. She is a seductress and will steal the men. Common forms assumed by kitsune include beautiful women, young girls, or elderly men.(Kitsune is Japanese for Fox).


Gaugin was a total pedophile of the current south-east-asian-sex-tourist ilk, and his use of bold, vibrant colours and loosely defined forms was probably a thinly veiled attempt to draw in younger, child-like admirers (by in part mimicking the naivete of children's art). He probably threw the fox in there to enchant them too. Whilst pedophilia is illegal, I would probably hang this picture on my wall, if only to encourage dinner-party arguments over a bottle of red wine. Plus I like the composition.

Nadia G

Loved your activity...

my caption is: "Pure delicacy"


A young woman lies naked on a patch of shorn corn in a field. A bale of hay in the foreground indicates the time of year: harvest. In the distance, figures make their way along a dirt track through a vivid landscape of grassy greens and puce. To a harvest celebration? Symbols abound: her right hand clutches a wilted lily, a symbol of virginity. Harvest means with the coming to maturity of fruits and crops. The title of the work is 'Loss of virginity'. Is the dog/fox the absent lover?

Ryan Ormonde

Pose is outleant, outleans is posed. Toes, toes. The mallows. Familiarity is unsuspecting on the verge. A sense struggles down generations to rest on a resting white. Scratchable is still. Response to a wave length is balance. In the periphery of her left eye moves this blue, this pink, this green, this yellow. Stemmed from tierra, being three. Pity leaves no limb. Pose is outleant, outleans is posed. Toes, toes. The mallows. Familiarity is unsuspecting on the verge. A sense struggles down generations to rest on a resting white wish.


My explanation. Is it decided that she has been "deflowered"? In other words, that someone has had his way with HER. Or is she in the process of deciding? Is she the fox or the flower? In my caption, and in my view of it, the fox is an extension of (a representation of) herself -- her will, her spirit, her desire, her choice. While it's possible to perceive her as the plucked pansy in her right hand, I don't believe she is passive. She is prone, yes, but her legs are nearly crossed ... her ankles, feet and toes are decidedly so. This is an act of resistance, defiance, control. She is the decision maker. She's calling the shots. She may have plucked someone else's flower! But, she is not completely free, lighthearted and easy. The pressure she feels is articulated in the crowd below - watching and waiting - they're the (literal & figurative) weight of her decision. Yes, she's nude (and the painting is a nude), but she's not there to be taken (or simply observed). She's not going to make it easy for anyone to interact with her. The observer works for it. Again, she makes the decisions... outfoxing all of us.

Kathleen Miller

'La perte de pucelage' by Paul Gauguin 1890-1891

This painting is symbolic of the young girl's innocence lost. Gauguin paints her pure skin contrasting against the brown dying grass with the symbol of the threatening fox showing he has conquered, and the iris in her hand stands for virginity lost. The Symbolist's use of the sheath of grain likely represents the seasonal harvest expected in a young girl's transition to adulthood. Gauguin's vivid color use in the distance spotlights the shocking separation of the girl from the respectable community in the town below.


"That Sly Bold Reynardine!"

gray roquemour

Gaugin:Such a "bad boy"!Loving his women passive,only the sexual curl to the toes indicating her participation.Her nudity is for his pleasure as is she:traditional gesture of the conqueror:foot upon chest of the fallen, a bit of chestbeating&gloating.The bland staring of this femme's face,eyes quite a contrast to those shrewd conspirateurs:DaVinci's Lady &her stoat.Historically society foresakes the devaluated female:"virginity" that bourgeois patriarchal concept to reassure authenticity of progeny.How dazingly delicious for the rebel Gaugin stumbling into a Polynesian Paradise where virgins awaited passively without shame for being at his pleasure:Small wonder his color palette throbbed in response.

Emi Matsui

naked woman is holding white/red flower on her right hand. and if it is lined straight from flower to top, there would be apparently top of the green mountain, and middle of the white slender cloud-like thing. on the top there is horizon line, i am not quite sure what represent greenish-blue color that is placed under the horizon, it seems ocean too, and sky is on the horizon. she is holding fox or dog with her left hand. fox's had is placed between her chest and possibility point to flower on her right hand. fox's hand and whole body possibility look like penis, flower looks like vagina. her feet point to probably some people, they are drawn as small, there is possibility some distance between her and them and they are on the path. her eye look to top. i am not sure what is the thing on the right bottom, which looks like vagina too. if picture is turned as left side is on the top, her whole body can be looked like penis, she is lain on the middle between sandy and green color.


"Naturist SF, brown hair, average looks, big feet, seeks SM for nature walks, perhaps more? Must like dogs."


Resting on a blanket of vivid hues, sandwiched between heaven and earth, loyalty and love rest on ruby lips whilst dreams of pastures green herald unspoken words,falling from each brushstroke

This is what I see.........Charlie O"s

Martine Seedorff

Colourful stone collection. Things don't need to look like a stone for be a stone.


The harmonious fusion of the Nature in the natures. In the foreground, the harmonious balance between the elements: the naked woman (symbol, for her nature, of procreation) is seduced and relieved at the same time, by the red fox (symbol, for his nature, of brightness) and together lie on the bare earth, like in their most natural behavior. On the background, the mankind. The born and grew human being. No more naked, no more alone. The mankind does not lie on the ground, in a relaxing and alluring dialog with Nature, but walk on it, towards the sea, looking for something. No more contemplating the elements around him, almost rejecting his instinctual nature.

Janine Talley

"Look - she's got no socks on"

This caption comes from my childhood. My parents took me to the Tate in London when I was about 6 and when I saw a statue of a naked woman , that was my comment. The reason was that I used to have chilblains in the cold London winters and was told off whenever I didn't have socks on to keep my feet warm. The world through a childs experience!