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The artist, Gottfried Lindauer, was born in 1839 in Pilsen in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He moved to New Zealand in 1874, where he remained until his death in 1926. This painting is one of many portraits of the Māori he painted there. Ngairo Rakai Hikuroa was a famous Māori chief. The staff he is holding, his clothing, tattoo and ornaments all demonstrate his high status. The staff, taiaha in Māori, is carried by chiefs and can also be used as a weapon. It is finely carved and decorated, with fringes of red feathers and white dog-hair. The feathers in Ngairo’s hair are from the huia, a bird with black iridescent plumage but with white tips on the tail feathers, worn only by people of high status. The bird became extinct in the early twentieth century.
The Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford
oil on canvas
H 96 x W 79.5 cm