Ancestor Figure (Korwar) or Charm

late 19th–early 20th century
Indonesia, Papua Province (Irian Jaya), Cenderawasih Bay region
Cenderawasih Bay
H. 7 1/8 x W. 2 x D. 1 15/16 in. (18.1 x 5.1 x 4.9 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
The lengthy coastline and numerous islands of Cenderawasih Bay in northwest New Guinea were, and to some extent remain, linked by a vast maritime trade network, which extended eastward along the New Guinea coast and westward to Indonesia. The frequent contact resulting from this network was responsible in part for the development of a shared artistic style, which, with local variants, appears across the region. In the past, the central images in Cenderawasih art were korwar, human figures with enlarged heads and arrow-shaped noses. Korwar portrayed recently deceased ancestors. The most important were freestanding figures that housed the spirits of the dead. Smaller korwar served as charms, and korwar images frequently appear on objects such as staffs, canoe prows, and headrests.
[Julius Carlebach Gallery, New York, until 1958]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1958, on permanent loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1958–1978