Polynesian objects from early European exploration, £19.99
Possibly 18th century AD
Cloaks and capes owned by lesser Hawaiian chiefs are mainly decorated with the feathers of common species. Unlike people of higher rank they could only afford small bands of valuable red and yellow feathers. This cloak is predominantly decorated with black cocks' feathers, and the neckline and sides are edged with a border of alternating triangles of more prestigious red 'i'iwi and yellow 'o'o feathers. Domestic fowl were introduced to the Hawaiian Islands from central Polynesia, and were fairly common before European contact.
The Hawaiian specialist Adrienne Kaeppler has identified this cloak as one collected on Captain Cook's third voyage (1776-80), based on its style and on circumstantial evidence. It has the characteristic straight neckline and shaped lower edge, common to those associated with the period before European contact. She believes that this cloak and another in The British Museum's collection (HAW 133) were gifts from Hawaiian chiefs to Captain Charles Clerke, Cook's second-in-command. Kaeppler suggests that this cloak was presented to Clerke by Kaneoneo, chief of Kaua'i.
A.L. Kaeppler, 'Hawaiian art and society: traditions and transformations' in Transformations of Polynesian (Auckland, The Polynesian Society, Memoir no. 45, 1985), pp. 105-31
W.T. Brigham, Hawaiian feather work (Honolulu, Bishop Museum Press, 1899)