Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Gable Figure (Dilukai)

late 19th–early 20th century
Republic of Palau, Caroline Islands
Wood, paint
H. 25 11/16 x W. 38 x D. 7 7/8 in. (65.2 x 96.5 x 20 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, and Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1970
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 353
The Belau archipelago comprises one large and numerous smaller islands north of New Guinea. In Belauan society, men are grouped according to age and status. Until the mid-twentieth century, each group had a separate men's house in which they spent most of their time. Men's houses were impressive structures with high pitched roofs and large triangular gables, decorated with carvings and paintings.
The interior beams and gable planks were adorned with incised and painted images depicting scenes from local legends. Female figures such as this one were often placed above the entrance to the men's house. The figures depict a legendary woman named Dilukai whose excessive promiscuity caused her angry father to tie her in an exposed position to warn village women to be more chaste. Ironically, men's houses were frequently home to prostitutes sent from other villages to earn wealth for their families.
Dr. Augustin Kraemer, collected 1908–1910; Linden-Museum, Stuttgart, Germany; [Everett Rassiga, New York, until 1970]; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1970–1978

The American Federation of Arts. Primitive Art Masterworks: an exhibition jointly organized by the Museum of Primitive Art and the American Federation of Arts, New York. New York: The American Federation of Arts, 1974, No. 100.

Kjellgren, Eric. Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007, 158, 267-8.

Kjellgren, Eric. How to Read Oceanic Art. How to Read 3. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014, pp. 128–31.

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