Art/ Collection/ Art Object


late 19th–early 20th century
Australia, Central Queensland (?), Queensland
Central Queensland (?)
Wood, paint
H. 9 3/4 x W. 25 5/8 in. (24.8 x 65.1 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
Not on view
With its strongly convex surface, oval form, and brightly painted designs, this shield is likely from western Queensland. Carved from soft, light-weight wood, it served to ward off weapons, such as clubs, spears, or boomerangs, wielded or thrown by an opponent during fighting. Shields in western Queensland were decorated using a variety of techniques. Some examples were adorned with engraved designs, others were painted, and some were decorated using a combination of the two techniques. The present work is painted with a bold, hourglass-shaped motif in red, white, and black pigments. Although a number of motifs appear repeatedly on shields from this region, there is no historic information on the significance of the individual designs.
Mrs. Caspar Folkoff, New York, until 1965; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1965, on permanent loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1965–1978

Lumholtz, Carl. Among Cannibals: An Account of Four Years' Travels in Australia and of Camp Life with the Aborigines of Queensland. New York: Charles Scribners' Sons, 1889, pp. 332–33.

Speiser, F. Die Kleinwüchsigen Asiens (Andamanen, Malacca, Philippinen, Wedda) und Beschreibung einzelner Inselgruppen Melanesiens [The Pygmy People of Asia in the Andamans, Malacca, the Philippines and Vedda, as well as a description of some Melanesian Island Groups. Basel, Switzerland, 1930.

McConnel, Ursula H. "Inspiration and Design in Aboriginal Art." Art in Australia (May 1935).

Brayshaw, Helen. Well Beaten Paths: Aborigines of the Herbert Burdekin District North Queensland: An Ethnographic and Archaeological Study. Townsville, Queensland: James Cook University of North Queensland, 1990, pp. 63–65.

Morphy, Howard. Aboriginal Art. London: Phaidon, 1998.

Khan, Kate. "Adornments and Design in North Queensland: A View from the Nineteenth Century." In The Oxford companion to Aboriginal art and culture, edited by Sylvia Kleinert, and Margo Neale. Melbourne and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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