Bowdoin College Museum of Art

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Unknown Artist


Statuette of a Woman

Creation Date

ca. 1830 - 1850


mid-19th century


11 1/2 in. (29.21 cm.)

Object Type


Creation Place

Oceania, Papua New Guinea, New Britain

Medium and Support


Credit Line

Anonymous Gift


Public Domain

Accession Number

These two figures hail from the Rossel Mountains in southern New Ireland, an island in Papua New Guinea. Typically made of chalk, statuettes such as these, known as kulap figurines, would be fashioned soon after an individual’s death. A male relative of the deceased was tasked with choosing an appropriate stone from a local quarry, and artisans would fashion the statues before clandestinely presenting them to a tribal leader. This leader would then put them on display with other such figurines, where men could visit them to grieve, while women and children were stayed outside. Believed to contain the souls of their subjects, the sculptures would be ritually broken after a period of mourning. Production of the statues ceased as Christianity gained popularity in the area in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Object Description

See attached pdf article (under surrogate list) "New Ireland Art of the South Pacific". A good reference for figure.

Additional Media

Additional Image back/detail
Additional Image right side/detail
right side/detail
Additional Image right side/detail
right side/detail

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