Title: Ceremonial Paddle
Date: probably 18th century
Cultural Region: probably Hermit Islands
Cultural Region: Papua New Guinea
Medium: wood, paint, and pigment
5 15/16 x 52 3/16 in. (15.1 x 132.5 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Morton D. May
Object Number: 198:1975
Place of origin: Hermit Islands, Manus Province, Papua New Guinea
Current Location: On View, Gallery 109
An artist, using a rat’s tooth as his main tool, carved a complex design on both sides of the blade of this paddle. The visible side of this blade contains an image of a bird, perhaps a bird-man. On the reverse side, the bird is without a head and parts of the design are painted with a red substance. Although the designs were meaningful when the paddle was created, their significance is no longer known. The shape of the handle suggests that the paddle came from the Hermit Islands, a small archipelago about 240 miles northwest of the island of Manus in Papua New Guinea.

by 1974 - 1975
Morton D. May (1914-1983), St. Louis, MO, USA [1]

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

[1] Morton D. May lent this object to the Saint Louis Art Museum in 1974 [loan number 1974.1669].

[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: Saint Louis Art Museum: Handbook of the Collection
Editor: Mary Ann Steiner
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: Ritual Arts from the Pacific
Periodical Title: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Edition: Sunday Pictures - August 24
Year Published: 1975
Title: Ritual Arts of the South Seas: The Morton D. May Collection
Year Published: 1975
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