Artist Unidentified, Pacific Islander
Object Place: Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia
139.7 x 17.78 x 10.16 cm (55 x 7 x 4 in.)
Medium or Technique
Arts of Asia, Oceania, and Africa Gallery (Gallery 177)
The most complex rendering of the pervasive tiki image occurs on Marquesan clubs, the exclusive property of warriors. On this and other examples, both sides of the flared upper end are shaped as large stylized human faces incorporating smaller faces carved in high and low relief. A face in low relief appears above the arching brows of the larger facial shape, whose ringed eyes have pupils composed of smaller human heads. Another head emerges from the middle of the protruding traverse bar, below which bands of geometric designs enclose oval eyes in low relief. The dark patina results from coconut-oil polishing, and fiber matting originally wrapped the bottom of the shaft. Warfare with weapons such as clubs, spears, and slings was mainly due to territorial disputes, insults, or humiliation. Marquesan men not only fought with such clubs but displayed them as symbols of prestige and preserved them as valued heirlooms. The clubs are among the best-known works from the Pacific. Since the eighteenth century, Marquesan artists have produced them for export, and many examples are now in private and museum collections.
1992, gift of Landon T. Clay, Peterborough, NH, to the MFA. (Accession Date: June 24, 1992)
Gift of Landon T. Clay