Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Arm Ornament

late 19th–early 20th century
Papua New Guinea, Prince Alexander Mountains, Middle Sepik River region
Abelam people
Bone, pigment
H. 1 x W. 11 1/8 in. (2.5 x 28.3 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1970
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 354
In addition to creating larger works of sacred sculpture, the peoples of the Sepik region in northeast New Guinea have highly developed traditions of decorative arts. As elsewhere in New Guinea, much of Sepik decorative art is devoted to the adornment of the human body. Sepik artists create diverse forms of jewelry, headdresses, and other personal ornaments. Personal possessions such as weapons, charms, and a variety of paraphernalia associated with the use of betel nut (the fruit of the areca palm, which is chewed as a mild stimulant) are often superbly crafted and adorned. As in larger works, the human and animal images that appear on these smaller objects typically portray ancestors, spirits, and other supernatural beings as well as totemic species associated with the owner's clan.
Catholic Mission, Father John Vegvari, Papua New Guinea, until 1970; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1970–1978

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