Seated male ancestor figure

DATE:
late 19th century
MATERIAL AND TECHNIQUE:
Wood
CLASSIFICATION:
Sculpture
DIMENSIONS:
Overall: 20 3/4 x 4 3/4 x 6 in. (52.705 x 12.065 x 15.24 cm)
DEPARTMENT:
Arts of the Pacific Islands
LOCATION:
Arts of the Pacific Islands - Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, Level 3
CREDIT LINE:
Dallas Museum of Art, The Otis and Velma Davis Dozier Fund and General Acquisitions Fund
OBJECT NUMBER:
2003.31

General Description

The sensitive carving of this figure’s eyes, mouth, and aristocratic gold ear ornaments contrasts with the dramatic abstraction of the body. The seated pose encompasses three different compositions. Viewed from the front, the composition is a hollow cube, framed by folded and gently rounded legs. In profile, the composition is a dynamic combination of angles and fluid curves articulating an improbably thin torso. Viewed from the back, the composition is a bold vertical slab.

This sculpture represents the founding ancestor of a community. The Leti believed that a deceased person’s shadow image, likened to a soul or spirit, could take up residence in carved wooden figures, thus allowing their descendants to communicate with him or her. Female ancestors were consulted regarding fertility, whereas male ancestors were called upon for status issues.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, 2013.