In one of the letters sent by Gauguin from Tahiti in December 1892 to his wife Mette the artist explained the very genesis of his famous painting Mana'o tupapa'u: "Je fis un nu de jeune fille. Dans cette position, un rien, et elle est indécente. Cependant je la veux ainsi, les lignes et le mouvement m'intéressent (I made a nude after a young woman. In this position, a trifle would make her indecent. But this is how I want her, the lines and the movement interest me)." This sentence has been recently discussed by Dario Gamboni, who convincingly argues that this saying manifests eroticism as the first artistic creative process. I would like to take this sentence as my point of departure for the study of early Umayyad ivories and to focus on Gauguin’s last words: “the lines and the movement interest me”. By going forward to the modernist gaze of an artist, who searched for newness and estrangement in the art of western painting, this paper sets its starting standpoint in modern history, in the age of transition from figurative to abstract painting. But, while turning one’s gaze back to the past, it aims at revisiting the mammoth surviving volume of the carved bone and ivory fragments datable to the intermediate moments of early Umayyad period. Thus, the particular style of these low-reliefs panels will be analyzed and treated as aesthetic form of expression rather than taxonomic apparatus.
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