Four Shields from the illustrious Collection of Fr. Kirschbaum SJ


Inventory Number: 100408, 100409, 100424, 100433FOTO DIGITALEFOTO DIGITALE

These four sculpted and painted wooden shields  belong to the illustrious  Kirschbaum collection.
They are one of the products of Verbese missionary Father F. Kirschbaum’s enduring work in the Sepik zone. They were initially kept close to Kirschbaum’s residence at Marienberg, but were later sent to Rome to enhance the collection of artifacts from Oceania, conserved at the Lateran Museum, and afterwards displayed in the Ethnological Museum of the Vatican Museums. According to the reports of Father F. Kirschbaum, which are conserved in the Historical Archive of the Museum, these objects were used for decoration in the house of the spirits, the Tambaran. Kirschbaum describes how these pieces were used in rituals such as the “singsing” dance, also called átei. This dance invoked Áto, the god of war, to hold back the enemies and lessen their power. The tables are rectangular, fashioned from a single wooden log and sculpted and painted on the front. On the upper part of each table is sculpted, in high relief, a face below a disk and the head of a bird. The rest of the surface is decorated by designs stylized with white, red, and black pigments. Currently the Ethnological Museum is under renovation, but it is expected that these pieces will return on display in the near future.
The first Tambaran of this group (originally made of five) was restored last year thanks to the generosity of the Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio) and the Corporate Travel Michigan Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums.