House Post Figure

19th century
Indonesia, Papua Province (Irian Jaya), Kabiterau village, Lake Sentani
Sentani people
H. 36 1/8 x W. 8 1/2 x D. 8 1/2 in. (91.8 x 21.6 x 21.6 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 354
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

Hoogerbrugge, Jac. "Sentani-Meer: Mythe en ornament." Kultuurpatronen (Patterns of Culture): Bulletin Etnografisch Museum Delft vol. 9 (1967), pp. 5–91.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 84.

The American Federation of Arts. Primitive Art Masterworks: an exhibition jointly organized by the Museum of Primitive Art and the American Federation of Arts, New York. New York: The American Federation of Arts, 1974, no. 123.

Newton, Douglas. Masterpieces of Primitive Art: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978, p. 172 (right).

Kooijman, Simon Dr., and Jac Hoogerbrugge. "Art of Wakde-Yamna Area, Humboldt Bay, and Lake Sentani." In Art of northwest New Guinea: from Geelvink Bay, Humboldt Bay, and Lake Sentani. New York: Rizzoli, 1992.

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, no. 12, pp. 43–44.