Title: Abstract Figure
Date: mid-19th to mid-20th century
Culture: probably Tolai
Cultural Region: New Britain
Cultural Region: Papua New Guinea
Medium: wood, lime, and pigments
Dimensions:
31 9/16 x 11 5/16 x 1 1/16 in. (80.2 x 28.7 x 2.7 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Morton D. May
Object Number: 191:1975
Place associated: East New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea
Current Location: On View, Gallery 106
Notes:
This unusual figure has been attributed to the Tolai people who live on the northeastern part of the Gazelle Peninsula of East New Britain. This design appears to be derived from one of several motifs that were used to mark places where cannibalism had taken place in former times. Such designs were also used as taboo signs and as decorations for burials. A fishing float from the Tolai has been recorded with a very similar engraved pattern to that found on the body of this figure.
Provenance
by 1974 - 1975
Morton D. May (1914-1983), St. Louis, MO, USA [1]

1975 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, given by Morton D. May [2]


Notes:
[1] Morton D. May lent this object to the Saint Louis Art Museum in 1974 [loan number 1974.1630].

[2] A letter dated August 14, 1975 from Morton D. May to Mary-Edgar Patton, acting director of the Saint Louis Art Museum, includes the offer of this object as part of a larger donation [SLAM document files]. Minutes of the Acquisitions Committee of the Board of Trustees, Saint Louis Art Museum, November 6, 1975.
Exhibition History
Title: Ritual Arts of the South Seas: The Morton D. May Collection
Date: August 22 – October 19, 1975
Venue: Saint Louis Art Museum
Publication History
Title: Ritual Arts of the South Seas: The Morton D. May Collection
Year Published: 1975
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