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Breastplate (civavonovono)

Sperm whale teeth, black-lipped pearl shell, and sinnet cord
Place of origin
Viti Levu, Fiji, Oceania
Place from
Tailevu, Melanesia, Fiji, Oceania
Bone & shell
Current Location
On View, Gallery 106
diameter: 9 1/16 in. (23 cm)
Credit Line
Bequest of Morton D. May
Public Domain
Object Number
Breastplates were very valuable personal items. A breastplate would be hung by a cord around a man’s neck, with a second cord fastened around his upper torso. This breastplate was probably made by a Tongan or Samoan craftsman for a Viti chief. The individual plates were drilled at the back so that they could be fastened internally with a Samoan canoe-builder’s knot. The back of the ivory plates is a deep yellow color, achieved by soaking the individual plates in coconut oil, then smoking them over a smoldering fire which was fed with sugary slivers. The front, however, has returned to the ivory’s natural creamy color after prolonged exposure to light.
opy, May Archives, Saint Louis Art Museum]. Minutes of the Acquisitions and Loans Committee of the Board of Trustees, Saint Louis Art Museum, September 20, 1983.
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