Model leg

Model leg

late 19th century
Marquesas Islands
French Polynesia
leg, model
Native Arts acquisition funds

Marquesan artist, Model leg, late 19th century. Wood; 22⅝ x 6 x 7¾ in. Denver Art Museum: Native Arts acquisition funds, 1948.795

height: 22 5/8 in, 57.4675 cm; width: 6 in, 15.2400 cm; depth: 7 3/4 in, 19.6850 cm
Native Arts
Oceanic Art

Body tattoos were a highly regarded form of body ornamentation in Polynesia, with the most elaborate found in the Marquesas. Men often were almost completely covered with geometric and curvilinear designs created by trained and skilled specialists. 

The exact function of this wooden leg is not known today. Two very different theories exist: one, that it served as a design model in a tattoo artist's studio to show off a range of designs the artist could create; and two, that it was made as a decorative table leg. No matter what its original purpose was, it is extremely rare and is one of only thirteen known to exist today. 

Known Provenance
Purchased 1948 from Carlebach Gallery, New York, by the Denver Art Museum