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Jean Charlot (French, 1898-1979), Snake and Fijian "Tabua", 1965, oil on board, signed and dated

Jean Charlot (French, 1898-1979), Snake and Fijian "Tabua", 1965, oil on board, signed and dated

Item Description:

Snake and Fijian "Tabua" (whale tooth), oil on board, signed, dedicated and dated (scratched) lower left "For Manu/Jean Charlot/1965", framed


The varnish is partly blooming. Painting could benefit from cleaning and conservation. Please contact for specific condition questions. Not examined out of the frame. Lofty does not guarantee the condition or authenticity of frames.


Private collection, Florida

Purchased from the above by the current owner ca. 2005


Height 10 in. x Width 14 in. (sight)

Height 11.25 in. x Width 15.25 in. (frame)

About The Artist:

Jean Charlot was born in Paris, France, in 1898 to an ethnically diverse and artistic family. His father, a businessman, was of French descent but grew up in Russia. His grandfather was of French and Indian descent and immigrated to France from Mexico City with his wife, a Jewish woman of Spanish descent. His mother, Anna, was also an artist, and his great-uncle Eugene Goupil collected Mexican and pre-Columbian ethnographic objects.

After studying at the Lyee Condorcet and the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, Charlot began his artistic career as a liturgical mural artist, but after World War I, seeking a change, he moved to Mexico with his mother, where he worked as an assistant to the muralist Diego Rivera. In addition to murals, Charlot painted portraits of his friends from this period, including David Alfaro Siquerios, Manuel Matinez Pinato, Jose Clemente Orozco, Xavier Guerro, Henrietta Shore, and Edward Weston. Later, he moved to the United States, where he painted notable religious murals in New York and continued to paint murals after settling in Hawaii, where he died in 1979.

Charlot’s body of work is characterized by a sincere interest in religion and diverse ethnography. The origins of his interest in Fiji could perhaps be traced to his 1963 trip to the islands, where he painted “Black Christ and Worshippers” and the side panels “St. Joseph’s Workshop” and “The Anunciation” at the St. Francis Xavier Church at Naiserelagi. In 1972, he created “Picture Book II,” a lithographic portfolio of Mexican, Hawaiian, and Fijian religious motifs, and several more silkscreens with Fijian scenes.

This painting depicts the sacred Fijian tabua, a polished sperm whale tooth that symbolizes goodwill, peace, and a sacred bond. To exchange a tabua in traditional Fijian culture is regarded as a great honor. Tabuas are exchanged at ceremonies associated with weddings, births, deaths, personal or communal agreements, and tribal occasions.


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