Tongan ivories such as this female figure are very rare, and they may be associated with an important deity connected with harvest and fertility. These figures were kept in shrines wrapped in bark cloth, and many of them were pierced in the back of the head (as in this example), suggesting that they were suspended. The shiny surface and creamy golden brown color of the ivory exemplify the ideal woman’s skin texture and color, and the well-developed breasts and buttocks, prominent calves, and small hands reflect features that were admired in Tongan women.
Ha’apai island group, Tonga
18th century (?)
H. 5 in. (12.7 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection, 2010.17