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Malagan Mask With Bird on Head

Cultural Region
northern New Ireland
Artist Culture
northern New Ireland
late 19th to early 20th century
Wood, indigenous paints, red ochre, bark cloth, coconut and other fibers, rattan, and shell
New Ireland province, Melanesia, Papua New Guinea, Oceania
Costume & clothing, sculpture
Current Location
Not on view
27 9/16 x 9 7/16 x 13 in. (70 x 24 x 33 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of Morton D. May
Public Domain
Object Number
Masks were used for many purposes in northern New Ireland. Sacred masks were used in ritual ceremonies. Other masks, such as this one, were used in more public ceremonies associated with malagan rituals and would be worn by men acting out a drama or play. We know of two other masks with a very similar design to this one, and it is quite likely that this mask was created as part of that group, perhaps with many other masks, to act the role of a flock of pigeons, danced by humans.
- 1968
Rugs and Decorative Accessories, Inc., New York, NY, USA

1968 - 1975
Morton D. May (1914-1983), St. Louis, MO, purchased from Rugs and Decorative Accessories, Inc. [1]

1975 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, given by Morton D. May [2]

[1] An invoice dated June 30, 1968 from Rugs and Decorative Accessories, Inc. to Morton D. May documents the purchase of this object, listed as "10526 New Ireland Mask" [May Archives, Saint Louis Art Museum].

[2] A letter dated August 14, 1975 from Morton D. May to Mary-Edgar Patton, acting director of the Saint Louis Art Museum, includes the offer of this object as part of a larger donation [SLAM document files]. Minutes of the Acquisitions Committee of the Board of Trustees, Saint Louis Art Museum, November 6, 1975.
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