This powerful, threatening piece is an Oceanic male ancestor or deity sculpture. The precise origin remains uncertain, but the general mien suggests that it might have been made in the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea or the larger isles of Polynesia. This is partly substantiated by the unusual iconography, to whit the turtle upon which the figure is standing. The face itself is severely reductivist, with three parallel vertical sections of wood on the face to denote eyes, nose and mouth by the interplay of their shadow when it is placed in bright light. The figure is hunchbacked, and has an additional oddity in the form of a block of wood projecting from the back of the head, perpendicular to the long axis of the body. The body is blocky and linear, with sparse detail; the proportions are elongated to such an extent that the hands almost reach the knees, although this may be in some part attributable to his shortened trunk.
Oceanic groups are enormously variably in terms of art and, indeed, almost all other social traits. The general sense of affinity and reliance upon ancestors, however is nigh on universal. This piece could commemorate a specific or generic antecedent, a deity, or the founder of a lineage. The significance of the turtle is uncertain, but its inclusion in the piece makes it likely to represent a spirituous or deified personage. This is a striking and powerful piece of Oceanic art.
- (PF.4994 (LSO))