Help us bring life to art, and art to lives. Make a donation.

Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Headrest (Amba Ragat)

19th century
Papua New Guinea, Aibom village, Middle Sepik River
Iatmul people
Wood, shell, hair, fiber, paint
H. 8 11/16 x W. 24 3/8 x D. 4 1/2 in. (22 x 61.9 x 11.4 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
Like many Pacific peoples, the Iatmul use wood headrests, which serve as pillows on which to rest the head or neck during sleep. Called amba ragat (literally, head stool), Iatmul headrests consist of a plain central section that accommodates the user’s head and is flanked by carved finials depicting totemic animals or ancestral beings. The central portion of this work is grasped by two female figures, who may represent a pair of legendary sisters from oral tradition. The figures have eyes inlayed with shell and heads embellished with coiffures made from locks of human hair. Their bodies are adorned with miniature versions of personal ornaments, including shell or fiber necklaces, bracelets, and anklets.
Count Etienne de Ganay, by 1936–1961, collected on La Korrigane Expedition, 1934–1936; (Hôtel Drouot Rive Gauche, Paris, December 4–5, 1961, no. 90); Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1961, on permanent loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1961–1978

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, 45, 85.

Related Objects

Debating Stool (Kawa Rigit)

Date: 19th century Medium: Wood, paint, shell Accession: 1978.412.1546 On view in:Gallery 354

Ceremonial Fence Element

Date: late 19th–early 20th century Medium: Wood, paint, shell Accession: 1978.412.716 On view in:Gallery 354

Mask (Mai)

Date: 19th–early 20th century Medium: Wood, pigment, shell Accession: 1974.29.2 On view in:Gallery 354

Dance Costume

Date: late 19th–early 20th century Medium: Fiber wook, grass, shell, seeds, paint Accession: 1978.412.1516 On view in:Gallery 354

Canoe Prow

Date: 19th–early 20th century Medium: Wood, cowrie shells Accession: 1978.412.705 On view in:Gallery 354