The triptych Ra, painted in 1960, is a continuation of Indiana’s 1959 orb paintings, rendered in a bright palette of red, blue, and green. Ra‘s left-hand panel contains two orbs, the central panel one, and the right-hand panel four. The arrangement of one, two, and four orbs in these canvases is closely linked to his early herms.
Ra is named after the Egyptian god of the Sun, who was typically depicted with a red solar orb atop his head. In the early 1960s Indiana frequently used names derived from mythology for the titles of his works, including Zeus for an early version of Zig (1960–62), and Ge (1960), a form of Gaea, the ancient Greek goddess of the earth. He returned to mythological titles over twenty years later with works such as Thoth (1985), named after the Egyptian god of writing, magic, wisdom, and the moon; Mars (1990); Icarus (1992); and Cyclops (1992).