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Figure

Date:
late 19th–early 20th century
Geography:
Papua New Guinea, Lower Sepik River
Culture:
Kopar or Angoram people
Medium:
Wood, paint
Dimensions:
H. 30 1/2 in. (77.5 cm)
Classification:
Wood-Sculpture
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1969
Accession Number:
1978.412.722
Not on view
Artists of the Kopar and Angoram people, who live near the mouth of the Sepik River in northern New Guinea, created distinctive openwork figures which probably portray powerful spirits with long beak-like noses and lithe attenuated bodies. Some sources say that the figures were dance accessories, carried or worn by performers at initiations and other ceremonies. Tied to short lengths of bamboo, which survive on some examples, they were held in the hand as dance wands or, according to one account, affixed to a framework
worn on the dancer’s back. The figure on view here once belonged to the Surrealist painter and writer Wolfgang Paalen (1905–1959), who perhaps was drawn to it by its distinctive treatment of the human form. The originality and plasticity with which artists from New Guinea and other parts of the Pacific portrayed the human image was greatly admired by the Surrealists, whose works often incorporate imagery closely inspired by Oceanic art.
Charles Stéphen-Chauvet, Brussels, Belgium; Wolfgang Paalen; [Everett Rassiga, New York, until 1957]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1957, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1958–1969; Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1969–1978

Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 150.

Newton, Douglas, Julie Jones, and Kate Ezra. The Pacific Islands, Africa, and the Americas. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987, no. 6, p. 18.

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, 56, 98.



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