Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Male Figure

18th–early 19th century
Mangareva, Gambier Islands
Mangarevan people
H. 38 3/4 x W. 10 x D. 7 1/2 in. (98.4 x 25.4 x 19.1cm)
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 353
Mangareva is a small group of islands east of Tahiti in Polynesia. When the islands were first contacted by the outside world, the Mangarevans had a polytheistic religion and created wooden images of a number of different gods. By 1836 virtually all these images had been destroyed at the insistence of Christian missionaries, and only about a dozen survive today. Overall, Mangarevan religion was similar to that of other Polynesian peoples. The Mangarevans had two groups of gods: an older more remote group responsible for the creation of the cosmos and a second more functional group associated with the activities of everyday life.
Because most Mangarevan figures were destroyed early on, there is little specific information on their nature and use, and the identity of the god represented by this figure remains unknown. European accounts indicate that a wooden image was carved when "a new god had spoken through the mouth of a priest." The figures were kept in temple structures at sacred areas called "marae" under the care of religious specialists.
#1701: Male Figure, Part 1
: / 
#1754: Male Figure, Part 2
: / 
For Audio Guide tours and information, visit
[Julius Carlebach Gallery, New York, until 1953]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1953, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1957–1978

Buck, Peter. Ethnology of Mangareva, Bernice P. Bishop Museum bulletin, vol. 157 (1938).

Buck, Peter. "Ethnology of Mangareva." Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin vol. 157 (1938).

Wardwell, Allen. The Sculpture of Polynesia. Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 1967, no. 34, p. 38.

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. 15.

Newton, Douglas. Masterpieces of Primitive Art: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978, p. 112.

Newton, Douglas, Julie Jones, and Kate Ezra. The Pacific Islands, Africa, and the Americas/The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987, no. 34, p. 50.

Waite, Deborah. "Three Images from Mangareva: A Reappraisal." In Artistic Heritage in a Changing Pacific, edited by Philip J.C. Dark, and Roger G. Rose. Hololulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1993, p. 106-110.

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, 177, 294-5.

Related Objects

Image (To'o) representing the deity 'Oro

Date: 18th century Medium: Wood, coconut husk fiber, feathers Accession: 1979.206.1481 On view in:Gallery 353

Handle for a Fly Whisk (Tahiri)

Date: 18th century Medium: Ivory, coconut husk fiber Accession: 1978.412.875 On view in:Gallery 353

Gable figure (Tekoteko)

Date: 1820s Medium: Wood, paint Accession: 1979.206.1437 On view in:Gallery 353

Gable Figure (Dilukai)

Date: late 19th–early 20th century Medium: Wood, paint Accession: 1978.412.1558a-d On view in:Gallery 353

Seated Figure

Date: late 19th–early 20th century Medium: Wood, shell, paint and resin Accession: 2003.8 On view in:Gallery 353