Quantcast

Handle for a Fly Whisk (Tahiri)

Date:
18th century or earlier
Geography:
Tahiti, Society Islands
Culture:
Maohi (Tahitian)
Medium:
Whale ivory, coconut husk fiber
Dimensions:
H. 1 5/8 x W. 1 3/8 x D. 11 3/4 in. (4.1 x 3.5 x 29.8 cm)
Classification:
Bone/Ivory-Implements
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1965
Accession Number:
1978.412.875
  • Description

    Like other Polynesian peoples, the Maohi (Tahitians) live in a ranked society which is divided into "chiefs" and "commoners." Chiefly status is inherited and, until the early nineteenth century, many Maohi chiefs carried ceremonial fly whisks and other objects as symbols of their rank. This elaborately carved fly whisk handle belonged to the Maohi King Pomare II, who gave it to the Rev. Thomas Haweis in 1818. Tipped with a bundle of long fibers, now missing, the whisk was used to shoo flies from the king and his food on important occasions.
    Pomare II's fly whisk handle is constructed entirely of sections of ivory, an extremely valuable material that was used almost exclusively by individuals of chiefly rank. Since the only source of ivory in pre-European times was the teeth of stranded whales, ivory was extremely scarce and large ivory objects such as this one would have been comparable to the crown jewels of European monarchies.

  • Provenance

    King Pomare II of Tahiti, until 1818; Rev. Thomas Haweis; [Maggs Bros., Ltd., London, until ca. 1958]; [Brooks Art Originals, Ltd., New Canaan, Conn., until 1965]; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1865–1978

  • See also
    Who
    What
    Where
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
311336

Close