Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Image (To'o) representing the deity 'Oro

18th century
Tahiti, Society Islands
Maohi (Tahitian)
Wood, coconut husk fiber, feathers
H. 18 1/8 x Diam. 2 7/8 in. (46 x 7.3 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 353
Although human images in Polynesian sculpture are predominantly naturalistic, there are a number of instances in which the human form is taken almost to abstraction, for example, in images of the Tahitian war god 'Oro. Composed of a solid wooden core covered by intricately plaited layers of coconut fiber cordage, the images of 'Oro appear almost clublike, with the eyes, ears, and other facial features only lightly delineated in the outermost layer of the coconut fiber. The practice of wrapping sacred images in layers of coconut fiber cordage or barkcloth was widespread in Polynesia and was often accompanied by chanting. As the artist worked, he or she literally wove the power of the chants into the fiber wrappings, increasing the mana (supernatural power) of the image.
Rev. George Bennet; K. Webster, Esq., until 1957; K. John Hewett, London, in 1957; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1957, on permanent loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1957–1978

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. 16.

Kaeppler, Adrienne L. Artificial Curiosities: Being an Exposition of Native Manufactures Collected on the Three Pacific Voyages of Captain James Cook on the Occasion of the European Discovery of the Hawaiian Islands by Captain Cook. Bernice P. Bishop Museum Special Publication, Vol. vol. 65. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1978, pp. 136-37, fig. 237.

Henry, Teuira. "Ancient Tahiti." Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin vol. 48 (1985).

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, 178, 296-7.

Kjellgren, Eric. How to Read Oceanic Art. How to Read 3. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014, pp. 158–59.

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