Arts of the Pacific Islands
On View: Great Hall, 1st Floor
This powerful mask probably represents a ges spirit, a potent and, in this case, probably a destructive spirit force that dwells in the bush. These spirits are said to attack humans who inadvertently see them. The protrusion from the mouth of this mask may represent the liver of a ges victim. Another interpretation, however, holds that it is a protruding tongue, warning of danger to anyone who sought to copy the design of the mask. The nosepiece is a subtle and highly abstract version of the theme of bird and snake in struggle, one of the most common themes in New Ireland sculpture and dance performance. The bird is said to represent the spirit world, while the snake represents the world of mortals—two realms locked in an eternal cosmic struggle.
Wood, fiber (Turbo petholatus opercula), pigment
23 1/2 x 11 3/4 x 15 3/4 in. (59.7 x 29.8 x 40 cm) (show scale)
Gift of Frieda and Milton F. Rosenthal
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Mask (Ges), 19th century. Wood, fiber (Turbo petholatus opercula), pigment, 23 1/2 x 11 3/4 x 15 3/4 in. (59.7 x 29.8 x 40 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Frieda and Milton F. Rosenthal, 84.58. Creative Commons-BY
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Description: Carved and painted wooden mask with fiber hair and beard attached. The carving is in the Malanggane style with emphasis on negative space; eyes protrude with linear, feather-like elements extending with the top lid; the nose is ornamented with a stylized bird; ears are elongated with triangular holes in the lower lobes and feather-like extensions above the head. Forehead and teeth are prominently carved in relief and painted black. The tongue, painted red, extends to a fraction below the jaw and then rises up in triangular shape to meet the nose. Eye balls are represented by inlaid opercula shell. Only the nostrils and sides of the mouth are perforated. The face, nose, and bird element are covered with fine-line designs in red, black and white.
Condition: Minor repairs have been made in several places; overall loss of paint, the beard hangs loose on proper right side. The piece is on a modern metal stand.
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