Publications
Title: Bird Figure
Date: probably 20th century
Culture: probably Elema
Cultural Region: Papuan Gulf
Medium: bark cloth, cane, fiber, and paint
Dimensions:
11 x 29 5/16 in. (28 x 74.5 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Morton D. May
Object Number: 131:1975
Place of origin: Orokolo Bay, Gulf Province, Papua New Guinea
Current Location: Not On View
Notes:
This bird appears dead and desiccated, but it looked very much alive when it was used in ritual context in the Papuan Gulf in the early years of the 20th century. It was probably suspended by a fine string from a pole held by a dancer so that it could fly and swoop over the crowd.
Provenance
- 1968
Rugs and Decorative Accessories, Inc., New York, NY, USA

1968 - 1975
Morton D. May (1914-1983), St. Louis, MO, purchased from Rugs and Decorative Accessories, Inc. [1]

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


Notes:
[1] An invoice dated June 30, 1968 from Rugs and Decorative Accessories, Inc. to Morton D. May documents the purchase of this object, listed as "10541 Papua Tapa Bird" [May Archives, Saint Louis Art Museum].

[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
Title: Art of Papua New Guinea
Date: June 18, 1996–January 7, 1997
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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