VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Mourning costume heva
Oz 1522
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

This mourning costume is one of about 10 similar objects which still exist today. It is complete and in very good condition. 1. The brow ornament, pateea, consists of four (originally probably five) pieces of the reddish-brown shell, Pinna nobilis, held together with coconut fiber strings. A pad made of whitish barkcloth is fastened with strings at the back of this head-piece, tail feathers of the 'tropical bird' (family Phaethontidae) have been inserted between the plate and the pad, held closely together by their quills, which radiate out from the head-piece. 2. The head-piece and the mask-like face cover beneath, parae, are joined with the aid of strings threaded through corresponding drilled holes. The face mask consists of two semicircular mother-of-pearl shells. The disc on the right features a slit 1.5 cm long which serves as a visor. 3. Neck and breast ornaments, paooto, consist of a crescent-shaped board, dyed black, with a span of 71 cm. At both ends of this board, which have been cut at right angles, there is a mother-of-pearl shell tightly fastened with string. Attached around the discs in the same fashion is a rosette of blue and greenish-black feathers as well as three further mother-of-pearl discs in the centre of the board. The lower edge of the board features holes close to one another. Thin strings threaded through these holes secure a breast frill, hoopa, made of over a thousand narrow, rectangular cut, tiny mother-of-pearl slips held together with loose, movable strings. 4. The robe consists of undyed strips of whitish barkcloth, 'ahu, with a head opening. Also belonging to the robe is a belt made of natural-coloured barkcloth. The back of the robe consists of numerous strings in a net-like arrangement with tufts of greyish-black cock feathers affixed. The section is reinforced by five small, diagonal wooden sticks affixed to the strings running lengthwise. A comparison of the Goettingen mourning dress with G. Forster's in situ observations reveals that it may be considered a complete specimen. Various illustrations by Cook's travel companions confirm this. Comparable complete specimens proven to have been acquired during Cook's voyages are located in collections in Honolulu, London (British Museum), Oxford, and Florence. Parts of Tahitian mourning dresses are to be found in collections in St. Petersburg, Sydney, Wellington (New Zealand), and Berne. A possibly older mourning dress, believed to date back to Bougainville's global circumnavigation, is to be found in the Museum für Völkerkunde (Museum for Ethnology) in Berlin-Dahlem.

History of the Object
This object, among others, was collected during James Cook’s three voyages through the Pacific Ocean (1768-71, 1772-75, and 1776-79/80). The items presented in the Goettingen Collection are of fascinating preservation and – in consideration of their age – irreplaceable items of the past.

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Type
Costume and Jewelry 
Materials
Feathers, mother of pearl, tortoiseshell, bark cloth, wood 
Measurements
Height 210 cm  
Creator name
Unkown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
France; French Polynesia; Tahiti 
Geography
France; French Polynesia 
Time period
AD 18th century ~ AD 18th century 
Creation date
18th century 
Function
Sepultural Rite 
Acquisition
Part of the Cook/Forster Collection 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
Ethnographic Collection, Institute for Cultural and Social Anthropology, Georg-August University Goettingen, Germany 
Museum
Ethnographic Collection of the University of Göttingen 
Credit line
 

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