Title: Bird-Shaped Headdress
Date: possibly 18th–19th century
Cultural Region: Korewori (Karawari) Caves region
Cultural Region: Southern Sepik region
Medium: wood, fibers, cane, rattan, clay, and paint
overall width: 67 3/4 in. (172 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Morton D. May
Object Number: 101:1975
Place of origin: East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea
Current Location: Not On View
This unique bird-shaped headdress presents an almost spectral image, like something flying out of the past. The wooden head of the bird appears to be very old and was probably carved with stone tools. Its surface has lost its original paint and is now covered with a combination of lichen and fungal stains, together with some limestone deposits. The headdress was found in an abandoned cave located in the hills at the headwaters of the Korewori River, a southern tributary of the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea.
- 1968
D'Arcy Galleries, New York, NY, USA

1968 - 1975
Morton D. May (1914-1983), St. Louis, MO, purchased from D'Arcy Galleries [1]

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

[1] An invoice dated January 8, 1968 from D'Arcy Galleries to Morton D. May documents the purchase of this object, listed as "#1242 Zoomorphic cult effigy figure of a bird with human head (probably the representation of a dead hunter), Wood, rattan on wicker frame. *from a cave inland from Tangermas River, New Guinea, Upper Karawari region / 42" high / 69 ½" wide / - has stand" [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
Publication History
Title: The Caves of Karawari
Year Published: 1968
Title: New on View: Art of the Pacific Islands
Periodical Title: Saint Louis Art Museum Magazine
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: Oceanic Art
Year Published: 1997
Title: L'Art Océanien
Year Published: 1993
Title: Saint Louis Art Museum: Handbook of the Collection
Editor: Mary Ann Steiner
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: Ritual Arts of the South Seas: The Morton D. May Collection
Year Published: 1975
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