The present figure, with its feet standing on the remains of a post, fits within the corpus which Roger Boulay has termed ‘sculptures to plant’ (Boulay & Kasarhérou, eds., De jade et de nacre, Paris, 1990, p. 155). Their function is quite poorly documented; Victor de Rochas described them as funerary sculptures which were placed in a spiral arrangement around the deceased’s hut (de Rochas, La Nouvelle Calédonie et ses habitants, Paris, 1862, p.188), and Captain le Bras described a figure which he collected (now in the musée d’Aquitaine, Bordeaux) as having been ‘planted outside the door of a chief’s hut.’ (Boulay and Kasarhérou, ibid., p. 158). Boulay suggests that the sculptures represented notables or chiefs. ‘Neither commemorative nor propitiatory, they seem intended rather to underline, in statuary, the importance of someone who would otherwise be outwardly indistinguishable from his fellows, expect perhaps by a few rules of behavior.' (ibid.).
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