Gauguin returned to Paris in August, 1893 from his two-year stay in Tahiti, and at the end of the year held his first exhibition of Tahitian paintings at Galerie Durand-Ruel. During this period he worked on the draft of Noa Noa, his account of his experiences in Tahiti. In spring, 1894 he moved to Pont-Aven in Brittany, where he continued to draw upon Tahitian imagery in his paintings, watercolors and woodcuts.
In formulating a primitivistic and pagan response to Christian traditions in European religious art, Gauguin frequently depicted his Maori subjects in the presence of their idols. Here he presents Hina, the mysterious Goddess of the Moon, the deity in the Maori pantheon to whom the artist was most closely drawn. Hina also appears in several wood sculptures (cf. Gray, nos. 95-97), and numerous paintings, including Gauguin's masterwork, D'où venons-nous? Que sommes-nous? Où allons-nous? (Wildenstein, no. 561; coll. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). Hina possesses the androgynous features which Gauguin admired in Tahitian women, prefering them to the polarized physical conception of gender in western civilization.
Rewald (op. cit., p. 35) remarks on the relationship of the present work to the painting Avarea no varua ino ("The Amusement of the Evil Spirit"; Wildenstein, no. 514; coll. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen) in which the two figures appear reversed on the left side. The oil painting was dated 1894, and Gauguin presented it to Mme. Gloanec, his hostess in Pont-Aven.
A letter from the Wildenstein Institute dated Paris, March 14, 1997 accompanies this painting, which will be included in the forthcoming revised edition of their Gauguin catalogue raisonné.