Canoe prow

Northern New Ireland
19th–20th century
Artist Unidentified, Pacific Islander

Object Place: New Ireland, Papua New Guinea, Melanesia


54.6 x 12.7 x 22.9 cm (21 1/2 x 5 x 9 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Wood and pigment

On View

Arts of Asia, Oceania, and Africa Gallery (Gallery 177)


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art



The wooden sculpture of New Ireland is distinguished by a rich combination of animal, human, bird, and plant forms; by complex openwork designs; and by the liberal use of white, black, and red pigments. Careful study of this canoe ornament-which would have decorated either prow or stern-reveals a human face in the center surrounded by birds, feathers, and animal-like heads relating to ancestral myths associated with the canoe’s owner.


Said to come from the collection of a German museum. May 6, 1987, sold by Galerie Alain 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)

Credit Line

Gift of William E. and Bertha L. Teel