The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 353
Elegant symbols of chiefly authority, the crescent-shaped gorgets known as rei miro reputedly were used primarily by chiefly women. Worn around the neck on important occasions, they signified the wearer's noble birth. The gorgets also formed part of the ceremonial attire of the island's paramount male chief (ariki mau), whose regalia reportedly included six rei miro, two worn on the chest and two hanging from each shoulder. Rei miro typically consist, as in this example, of a flat wooden crescent adorned at each end by an anthropomorphic head depicted in profile. The central portion is decorated with a shallow intaglio crescent, whose form echoes the curve of the ornament. Rapa Nui artists also created a number of variants on the rei miro image, in which other forms, such as the tails of whales, are substituted for the human heads.
[Ralph C. Altman, Los Angeles, until 1959]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1959, on permanent loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1959–1978
Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 13.