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Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Treasure Box (Wakahuia)

New Zealand, North Island
Maori people
Wood, shell, feathers, fiber
H. 3 3/4 x W. 3 3/4 x D. 18 3/4 in. (9.5 x 9.5 x 47.6 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
1979.206.1434a, b
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 353
Important forms of sculpture in their own right, the treasure boxes of the Māori people of Aotearoa (New Zealand) contained personal ornaments, such as pendants or feathers, which through contact with the wearer became imbued with his or her supernatural power. When not in use, ornaments were placed in the box, which was hung from the house rafters to safeguard its contents. Intended to be seen from below, treasure boxes have ornately carved undersides and the human figures on this work, likely depicting ancestors, gaze downwards accordingly. The surface shows the complex curvilinear designs characteristic of Māori wood sculpture.

Purchased in 1949, this Māori treasure box was among Nelson Rockefeller’s earliest acquisitions of Oceanic art.
[Julius Carlebach Gallery, New York, until 1949]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1949, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1956–1978

Mead, Hirini (Sidney) Moko, ed. Te Maori: Maori Art from New Zealand Collections. New York, 1985.

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