Mother and child figures are rare in Oceanic art. This example comes from the Lake Sentani region on the northern coast of New Guinea. The Sentani people live over the lake itself in villages built on wooden pilings. The Sentani have a hierarchical social structure, including both chiefs and commoners. Until the early twentieth century, the chief's house was the largest structure in the village and was frequently decorated with carvings depicting a variety of subjects. Wooden figures such as this one adorned the tops of posts that supported the roof and floor of the chief's house and were also carved into the pilings supporting the boardwalk bridges that connected the houses in the village.
Dr. Jacques Viot, Paris, collected Lake Sentani 1924–1929; Pierre Loeb Collection, Galerie Pierre, Paris; [John J. Klejman, New York, until 1954]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1954, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, 1956–1978
Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 84.
Kjellgren, Eric. Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007, 12, 43-4.