Feeding funnel (korere)
Oceanic, New Zealand (Aotearoa), Maori peoples
Artist Unidentified, Pacific Islander
Object Place: New Zealand
16.5 cm (6 1/2 in.)
Medium or Technique
Arts of Asia, Oceania, and Africa Gallery (Gallery 177)
Imagine looking at the whirling lines of this Maori feeding funnel from below, gazing up and beginning to distinguish the abstract faces looking back at you. This funnel, one of the finest pieces in the MFA collection, was made for a wealthy Maori man for use during the tattooing process. Chiefs and other high-ranking men are particularly suffused with mana, or spiritual power, which increases during religious events like tattooing. It is tapu—forbidden—for food to touch these powerful men’s lips during the days-long tattooing process, and so special funnels are used to feed them during this time. The deep, sharp curving lines on this feeding funnel reflect a period after the adoption of iron carving implements, which made it easier for artists to create complex decorative patterns with curling, ornamental detail. This particular piece has long been admired for the artist’s incredible skill. Leading art collectors and dealers, including William Oldman, James Thomas Hooper, and Charles Ratton, owned this piece before it was given by William and Bertha Teel to the MFA.
William O. Oldman (b. 1879 – d. 1949), London. By 1954, James Thomas Hooper (b. 1897 - d. 1971), Arundel, England [see note]; June 21, 1977, posthumous Hooper sale, Christie’s, London, lot 114. Charles Ratton (dealer; b. 1895 – d. 1986), Paris. 1981, sold by the Galerie Schoffel, Paris, to William and Bertha Teel, Marblehead, MA; 1991, year-end gift of William and Bertha Teel to the MFA. (Accession Date: January 22, 1992)
NOTE: Published by J. T. Hooper and C. A. Burland, The Art of Primitive Peoples (New York: Philosophical Society, 1954), pl. 6(a).
Gift of William E. and Bertha L. Teel