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Club (‘u’u)

Artist Culture
early–mid-19th century
Wood, plant fiber
Polynesia, French Polynesia, Oceania
Arms & armor, sculpture
Current Location
Not on view
7 7/16 x 4 x 51 9/16 in. (18.9 x 10.2 x 131 cm)
Credit Line
Museum Purchase
Public Domain
Object Number
Reading the sculpted motifs on both sides of this club creates a complex visual game. At first glance, the head of the club takes the form of a face. However, closer looking reveals a multitude of additional faces. There is a face on the upper crest of the finial; two others form the pupils and irises of the eyes with radiating striations; a fourth face appears in place of the primary face’s nose; another is evident on the lower band. There is no specific Marquesan explanation of this interlocking imagery. However the Marquesan word "atua," meaning both “eyes” and “ancestors,” suggests a striking interpretation for this proliferation of eyes and faces: The ancestors are watching.
Moffat Collection, London, England [1]

Wolfgang Paalen (1905-1959) [2]

- 1952
Altman Antiques (Ralph C. Altman), Los Angeles, CA, USA

1952 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, purchased from Altman Antiques, Los Angeles, CA [3]

[1] A letter dated May 12, 1952 from Ralph C. Altman to Perry T. Rathbone, director of the City Art Museum, identified this object was "ex coll. Moffatt, London" and "ex coll. Wolfgang Paalen" [Director's Office, General Correspondence, Archives, Saint Louis Art Museum].

[2] See Note [1].

[3] An invoice dated June 11, 1952 from Ralph C. Altman to the City Art Museum documents the purchase of this object, listed as "Marquesas Island Club" [SLAM document files]. Minutes of the Administrative Board of Control of the City Art Museum, June 5, 1952.
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