- Museum number
Male figure (ti'i) of pua wood. Stylised arms and hands, resting on upper abdomen; nipples and navel in relief. Made of pua wood (heavy yellow wood, good quality).
- Production date
- 18thC (before 1774)
Height: 46 centimetres
Width: 13 centimetres
Depth: 13 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Registration slip: 'Wood male human figure, light brown in colour; stylised arms and hands, resting on upper abdomen; nipples and navel in relief. Some damage to left foot, and considerable damage to right foot and leg.'
21 Jul 2008: Wood identified as Thespesia by Dr Paula Rudall, Head of Micromorphology, Jodrell Laboratory, Kew Gardens, during her analysis of woods used in Hawaiian and other Polynesian figures.
The carving is of high quality, its distinctive features can be seen on other Tahitian carvings. Comment from Tara Hiquily, curator, Musée de Tahiti et ses Îles, during a visit to the museum storehouse, 19 June 2008: 'The style is very similar to the one with Tongan dress (Tah.63); special eyes.' Made of pua wood (heavy yellow wood, good quality).
This figure was found in head of a mourner's costume Oc,TAH.78 when the costume was cleaned and restored at the British Museum in 11-12,1966. The costume (TAH.78) was found to be mounted upon an eighteenth-century easel with a hitherto unknown wooden figure supporting the headdress. This conservation work was published in Cranstone & Gowers, 1968.
It is understood that Captain Cook most probably collected during the costume during his second voyage (1772- 1775), when Tahitian chiefs agreed to receive sacred red feathers from Tonga in exchange for the mourner's costume. Hooper 2006: Probably the one presented to Captain Cook at Tahiti on May 1774.
See Beaglehole, J.C. (eds), 1961, 'The journals of Captain James Cook on his voyages of discovery', 4 vols in 5. Cambridge University Press, published for the Hakluyt Society (Extra Series, 34-7): 392).
Teilhet, J.H., 1979, 'The equivocal nature of masking tradition in Polynesia' in ‘Exploring the visual art of Oceania', S.M. Mead (ed.), 192-201. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, and Jessop, M., 2002, 'Heiva tupapa'u: an instantiation of potency in death or life?', Unpublished MA dissertation, Sainsbury Research Unit, University of East Anglia, have discussed their significance.)
With respect to exchange, Cook wrote that during a visit from 'the Royal Family', Tu's father 'made me a present of a compleat Mourning dress, curiosities we most valued, in return i gave him whatever he desired and distributed red feathers to all the others'
Also see D’Alleva, Anne, ‘Change and continuity in decorated Tahitian barkcloth from Bligh’s second breadfruit voyage, 1791-1793’, Journal of the Pacific Arts, 1995, 11-12, pp. 29-42.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1979 – 1980 15 Feb-29 Sept, London, BM, Museum of Mankind, Captain Cook in the South Seas
2009-2010 28 Aug-28 Feb, Bonn, Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany, James Cook and the Exploration of the Pacific
2010 10 May-13 Sept, Vienna, Museum of Ethnology, James Cook and the Exploration of the Pacific
2010-2011 7 Oct-13 Feb, Bern, Historical Museum, James Cook and the Exploration of the Pacific
2018-2019, 29 Nov-4 Aug, London, BM, G91, Reimagining Captain Cook: Pacific Perspectives
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Collected during Cook's 2nd voyage 1772- 1775.
Registration slip information: 'Given to the Museum by Capt. Cook. See George Forster, 'Voyage Round the World....', London, 1777, Vol. II, p.72
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
CDMS number: Oc17??D11.10078 (old CDMS no.)
Other BM number: Oc,TAH.78