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Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Figure of a Male Rice Deity (Bulul)

19th century or earlier
Philippines, Hapao region
Ifugao people
Height: 24 1/2 in. × 5 in. × 6 5/8 in. (62.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of George R. Ellis, in memory of Nancy L. Ellis, 2013
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 355
This standing male figure representing a rice deity (bulul) from the Ifugao people of northern Luzon Island in the Philippines is an outstanding and highly important expression of the foremost tradition of anthropomorphic sculpture in the northern Philippines. Sculpted with exceptional elegance and sensitivity for its genre, it is among the finest expressions of its type. While bulul figures are fairly common, the great majority are of more recent date and are more roughly carved than this work.

The figure stands on a squarish hourglass-shaped base representing a stylized rice mortar. The enlarged head has a smooth domed cranium with a large circular hole in the center, which likely originally served for the insertion of a plume of hair. The facial features are rendered in relief with a shallow brow line that descends to a distinct triangular point just above the nose. The eyes are shown as lozenge-shaped forms with circular holes bored in the center to indicate the pupils. The lips are slightly open with a thin projection appearing between them, likely representing the tongue. The ears appear as tab-like semicircular forms protruding markedly from either side of the head. The top and lobe of the proper left ear are pierced with circular holes, which would once have held ear ornaments. The proper right ear is eroded but shows the vestiges of similar holes in the top and lobe. There are some old cut marks, made by a metal blade, on the proper right cheek, eye, and brow. The shoulders are broad while the torso appears as a tapering triangular form. The erect phallus is carved in relief on the lower abdomen. The legs are muscular with the knees slightly bent and the feet are rendered as thin, plank-like forms. The toes are delineated with incised notches and the toenails are indicated. The hands are highly detailed with the knuckles and fingernails rendered in naturalistic detail. The back, proper right side, and base of the figure are somewhat eroded and there is a small, slightly more recent loss to the little finger of the proper right hand.
H. Otley Beyer, Philippines, until (d.) 1966; by bequest to William Beyer, Manila, Philippines, until 1970; George R. Ellis, St. Petersburg, FL, 1970–2013

Ellis, George R. "Arts and Peoples of the Northern Philippines." In The People and Art of the Philippines. Los Angeles: Museum of Cultural History, University of California, Los Angeles, 1981, p. 198, 181.

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