Female Figure (‘otua fefine)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
early 19th century. Ha'apai Islands. This striking example was carved from the creamy core of the polished tooth of a sperm whale. The figure’s honey-colored patina was achieved by smoking the figure over smoldering sugary tubers from the ti plant (Cordyline fruticose) and then rubbing with oil. Not only did this accentuate the ivory’s natural grain (giving it a rich reddish color which was an important element of its aesthetic), the resulting shimmer of the surface conveyed something of the essence of divine, sacred light.
Female Figure ('otua fefine)