- Museum number
Carved figure of bird-man spirit, made of wood, with prominent beak and extended wings. Exposed genitals of this figure indicate that it is masculine. The detail of the head shows that inlaid shell once marked the eyes and still survives in the beak representing teeth. The figure wears a headband embellished with a row of decorative elements that may represent shell plaques.
- Production date
- 800 - 1500 (?)
Height: 87 centimetres
Width: 70 centimetres
Depth: 22 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Referred to in Archaeologia,1803 as being exhibited to the Society by Rebello on 11/4/1799, having been found in a cave in June,1792.
Method of acquisition by BM currently unknown. (AMD,8/1993).
See Fagg, Tribal Image, pl.2.
McEwan 2009, p.26
Bird-man spirit. Wood. Taino, 15th-16th century AD
This tall powerful sculpture combines both human and zoomorphic elements. The prominent beak and extended wings identify him as a bird, probably alluding to the idea of shamanic flight. However, the sexual organs of birds are not normally visible and the exposed genitals of this figure indicate that he is masculine. The detail of the head shows that inlaid shell once marked the eyes and still survives in the beak representing teeth, another human characteristic. He wears a headband embellished with a row of decorative elements that may represent shell plaques. This spirit being (cemi) of a bird-man seems to embody the archetypal husband whose long beak is celebrated in myths and folktales as the instrument for activating the reproductive potential of "proto-women", creating sexual beings to ensure the continuity of the social group.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1998 Oct-Dec, Norwich, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Henry Moore: Friendships and Influences
2005 11 Apr-10 Jul, Seoul Arts Centre, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2005 25 Jul-8 Oct, Busan Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2005 27 Oct-2006 31 Jan, Haengso Museum, Keimyung University, Daegu, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2008, Apr-Sept, Barcelona, Museo Barbier-Mueller D'Art Precolombi, 'Caribbean Before Columbus'
2008 Sept -2009 Jan, Santiago de Compostela, Fundacion Caixa Galiciade, 'Caribbean Before Columbus'
2009, Jan-Apr, Madrid, Museo de America, 'Caribbean Before Columbus'
2012 10 Apr-29 Jul, Quai Branly, Paris; Masters of Chaos
2012 31 Aug-02 Dec, Kunst-und Austellunghalle de Bunderrespublik, Bonn; Masters of Chaos
2013 31 Jan-19 May, Fundació la Caixa, Madrid; Masters of Chaos
- Acquisition notes
- Acquisition details unknown.
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number