Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Figure (Yipwon)

Date:
19th century
Geography:
Papua New Guinea, Middle Sepik, Korewori River
Culture:
Alamblak or Yimam people
Medium:
Wood, paint
Dimensions:
H. 96 3/4 x W. 5 x D. 9 in. (245.7 x 12.7 x 22.9 cm)
Classification:
Wood-Sculpture
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1972
Accession Number:
1978.412.732
Not on view
Kept within the men’s ceremonial house, the distinctive hook figures (yipwon) of the Yimam people of Korewori River region formerly played a central role in hunting and warfare. Depicting powerful ancestral spirits, the figures served as vessels into which the spirits were called before a hunt or raid and presented with offerings. The yipwon then went forth during the night to slay the souls of the game or human enemies, enabling the men to easily kill the actual animals or enemies the following day. If a yipwon was successful, the men showed their gratitude by smearing it with the victims’ blood or offering it a portion of the game. If it failed, the figure was neglected or discarded. Yipwon images portray both external and internal features of the spirits. Although highly stylized, the head and single leg appear relatively naturalistic in comparison with the central section of the body, which typically consists of a series of opposed, concentric hooks depicting the ribs, rotated ninety degrees from their normal orientation and surrounding a central element representing the heart.
[Julius Carlebach Gallery, New York, until 1959]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1959–1972; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1972-1978

Kjellgren, Eric. How to Read Oceanic Art. How to Read 3. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014, pp. 36–39.

Related Objects

Bodhisattva Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future

Artist: Date: 7th century
Accession Number: 1978.536
Date: 7th century Medium: Bronze inlaid with silver Accession: 1978.536 On view in:Gallery 237

Buddha Preaching

Artist: Date: 8th–early 9th century
Accession Number: 1993.387.6
Date: 8th–early 9th century Medium: Silver alloy Accession: 1993.387.6 On view in:Gallery 246

Figure (Yipwon)

Artist: Date: 19th–early 20th century
Accession Number: 1978.412.853
Date: 19th–early 20th century Medium: Wood Accession: 1978.412.853 On view in:Gallery 354

Ancestor Figure (Konumb or Atei)

Artist: Date: 19th century
Accession Number: 1978.412.727
Date: 19th century Medium: Wood, paint Accession: 1978.412.727 On view in:Gallery 354

Figure (Gra or Garra)

Artist: Date: 19th–early 20th century
Accession Number: 1979.206.1792
Date: 19th–early 20th century Medium: Wood, paint Accession: 1979.206.1792 On view in:Gallery 354