Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Lizardman Figure (Moko)

19th century
Chile, Rapa Nui (Easter Island)
Rapa Nui people
Wood, obsidian, bone
W. 2 5/16 x L. 19 1/4 in. (5.8 x 48.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1995
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 353
The distinctive lizardman figures (moko) of Rapa Nui are composite beings with the heads and tails of lizards, the fan-like tails of birds, and the bodies of humans. Reportedly placed at the thresholds of dwellings or ceremonial structures or hung from interior rafters, the figures may depict powerful spirits, who served as supernatural guardians. Small lizardman images were also worn as pendants by dancers during feasts. The hole in the back of this work once accommodated the cordage used to suspend it within a dwelling or around a performer's neck.
Private collection, northern Germany, from mid-to-late 19th century; Herbert Tischner, Hamburgisches Museum fur Volkerkunde, until ca. 1985; [Ralph Nash, Hamburg, Germany, ca. 1985–1995]

Kjellgren, Eric, Jo Anne Van Tilburg, and Adrienne L. Kaeppler. Splendid Isolation: Art of Easter Island. New York, New Haven and London: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2001, no. 19, pp. 54–56.

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, 197, 321-2.

Kjellgren, Eric. How to Read Oceanic Art. How to Read 3. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014, pp. 163–65.

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