Gauguin described his own face as that “of a savage,” and in his many self-portraits, he made no attempt to soften that image. Here his striped shirt and polka-dot tie vividly represent the bohemian who had thrown off his once conventional life as a stockbroker.
While Gauguin’s clothes suggest a climate colder than the South Seas, the painting is thought to date from the end of his first trip to Tahiti. During his time there, Gauguin studied ancient Polynesian deities. The figure of an idol that appears behind his left shoulder represents the goddess Hina, a symbol of happiness, calm, and peace.