Art/ Collection/ Art Object


mid to late 19th century
Australia, northeastern Queensland, Queensland
Northeastern Queensland
Wood, paint
H. 30 1/2 x W. 14 1/4 x D. 4 5/8 in. (77.5 x 36.2 x 11.7 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 354
Aboriginal artists formerly devoted much of their energies to the creation and adornment of weapons, such as shields, boomerangs, spear throwers, and clubs. Many served equally in warfare and in hunting game such as kangaroos or emus. Shields, however, were used almost exclusively in combat, although some ceremonial forms served as dance accessories. Fighting shields occur in two basic types, each designed for a specific purpose. The first comprised relatively flat, broad shields used to protect the bearer from projectile weapons, such as spears, throwing clubs, and boomerangs thrown by the enemy. The second type was a narrower, more compact parrying shield, used to ward off blows from fighting clubs and other hand-held weapons during close combat. The designs of Aboriginal weapons are typically geometric, although figurative images appear on some examples. Some designs may have been purely decorative. However, many likely symbolized aspects of Dreaming (the beings, sites, and events of the primordial creation period) or marked the owner’s identity or group affiliation.
Edna Mason Kaula, New York (?),1969; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1979, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1969–1978

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.

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.

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, 87, 144-6.

Kjellgren, Eric. How to Read Oceanic Art. How to Read 3. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014, pp. 62–70.

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