Bark cloth (maro)
Oceanic, Teluk Yos Sudarso, Papua Province, Indonesia
early 20th century
130 x 64 cm (51 x 25 in.)
Medium or Technique
Bark cloth, pigment
Not On View
Women in the Lake Sentani and Teluk Yos Sudarso areas traditionally produced maro, or cloths, from different kinds of bark, to which men applied earth pigment designs. Married women wore them as loin cloths, and maro were also displayed on mortuary structures. Additionally, Teluk Yos Sudarso area clans owned such cloths and draped them on the wall of men’s houses. Their designs, some containing rows of nonfigural spirals, others incorporating fish, birds, and fauna, early attracted the admiration of Western visitors. Bark cloths are fragile, and few from this region in Euro-American collections pre-date the 1920s. In this freestyle painting of marine motifs on a tan background, which was probably part of a larger maro, the perspective seems to be from above, as though looking down into the water. A human figure grasps the tail of a central turtle-lizard creature, surrounded by a barbed sawfish and other fish. The circular forms with radiating lines suggest jellyfish. This cloth possibly was commissioned by Jacques Viot in 1929 from artists in the village of Tobati on Teluk Yos Sudarso.
1929, collected in the Lake Sentani region of Indonesia by Jacques Viot (b. 1898 – d. 1973), Paris [see note]. André Lèfevre (d. 1963), Paris; December 13, 1965, posthumous Lèfevre sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, lot 145. 1983, sold by Wayne Heathcote (dealer), Darling Point, N.S.W., Australia, to William and Bertha Teel, Marblehead, MA; 1991, partial gift of William and Bertha Teel to the MFA; 2014, acquired fully with the bequest of William Teel to the MFA. (Accession Dates: January 22, 1992 and February 26, 2014)
NOTE: Early provenance was provided by the dealer at the time of the Teels’ purchase.
Gift of William E. and Bertha L. Teel