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Lizard Figure

Culture Rapa Nui (Easter Island)
Title Lizard Figure (Moko Miro, Moai Moko)
Date 19th century
Medium Wood, bone, and and obsidian
Dimensions Object: 6 3/4 × 15 × 2 in. (17.1 × 38.1 × 5.1 cm)
Overall: 6 3/4 × 15 × 2 in. (17.1 × 38.1 × 5.1 cm)
Credit Line Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University
Accession Number 2010.24

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About this Work

Rapa Nui lizard figures are actually combinations of man and lizard, often with added avian elements. On this figure, the head is that of a lizard. The torso, arms, and legs are human, and the emphasis on the rib cage, the raised spine, and the tapering arms and legs is consistent with carved male figures from the island. A small fan-shaped carving at the end of the spine recalls a bird’s tail.

Though the form can be described easily, its meaning is unclear. Jo Anne Van Tilburg, a leading scholar of Rapa Nui, suggests that lizard figures may depict physical transformations resulting from spirit possession or other spiritual activities.

Provenance research is ongoing for this and many other items in the Eskenazi Museum of Art permanent collection. For more information about the provenance of this artwork, please contact the department curator with specific questions.

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"Lizard Figure | Collections Online." Collections Online. Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2024.