Large Hei Tiki pendant
Carved greenstone (Pounamu – nephrite)
19th century or earlier
Height: 5 ¼ in. (13.5 cm)
Possibly acquired from Ernest Learning, Auckland circa 1932
Ex collection William Engs Dennis, Rhode Island
Ex Sotheby’s New York May 2005 lot 2
Ex collection Wayne Heathcote
Published: John Giltsoff 2009
The figure is shown head-on, its head leaning to the left, and sticking its tongue out – the symbol of the power of the warrior in Maori art. The facial features (bridge of the nose, mouth, eyes) are delicate, carved deeply into the stone.
Hei Tiki pendants were worn around the neck on a narrow cord of woven fibers. These ornaments were prestigious, and were passed on from generation to generation. Hei Tiki were said to confer the protection of the ancestors of the clan to the wearer, with the clan’s affiliation going back to Tiki, the primordial man.