Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Shell Plaque (Barava)

Date:
19th–early 20th century
Geography:
Solomon Islands
Culture:
Solomon Islands
Medium:
Tridacna shell
Dimensions:
H. 3 x W. 3/8 x D. 6 7/8 in. (7.6 x 1 x 17.5 cm)
Classification:
Shell-Ornaments
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
1979.206.1424
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 354
Objects fashioned from the hard marble-like shell of the giant clam are
prized by many Melanesian peoples. The art of working giant-clam shell
reached its apogee in the Solomon Islands. The most complex clam shell
objects were barava, ornate openwork plaques created in the western
Solomon Islands. The designs on some barava are geometric, but many
include stylized human figures interspersed with forms that resemble faces,
shown with spiral eyes and grinning mouths filled with minute teeth. Barava
appear to have been associated with burial places and were reportedly used
to adorn structures housing the skulls of prominent men or slain enemies or
placed on graves. In the past, some barava formed part of vovoso, powerful
charms carried in war canoes during headhunting expeditions to protect the
crew and ensure success.
[John J. Klejman, New York, until 1955]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1955, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1956–1978

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 64.

Newton, Douglas. Masterpieces of Primitive Art: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978, p. 247 top.

Waite, Deborah. Art of the Solomon Islands: From the Collection of the Barbier-Müller. Geneva: Musée Barbier-Mueller, 1983.

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, no. 102, p. 173.

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