Society Islands Adze Blade

A magnificent Society Islands adze blade. Cut from fine-grained black basalt, the blade is triangular in cross-section and is smoothly polished on all sides. The tang, where the blade would have been fastened to a ‘T-shaft,’ is gradually stepped and roughly cut. Its dark and geometric planes present a strong monumental quality, and its triangular facet, lifting gently outward from the tang, suggests a highly abstracted human face.

Adzes were produced across Polynesia, facilitating both agriculture and the production of a vast array of wooden objects and tools. Given the material importance of the adze, as well as the considerable time, effort and expertise it took to create one, adze-makers were accorded significant respect in their communities and were well compensated for their work.

18th century or earlier
9 1/4" h 3" w
Provenance: Ex Hurst Gallery; Paula G. Rubel and Abraham Rosman
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