“Paratene Te Manu” by Gottfried Lindauer
“Paratene Te Manu” by Gottfried Lindauer depicts a Maori with his ‘Tā moko.’ Tā moko is the permanent marking of the face and body as traditionally practiced by Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand. The subject of this portrait, Paratene Te Manu, who was one of 14 Māori who visited England in 1863. He met Queen Victoria, appearing before her in traditional clothing and ornaments. Tā moko is the permanent body and face markings developed by the Māori. Unlike tattoos, Tā moko is carved by chisels in the skin and not punctured. This chiseling process left the skin with grooves, and not a smooth surface.
Captain James Cook wrote in 1769:
“The marks, in general, are spirals drawn with great nicety and even elegance. One side corresponds with the other. The marks on the body resemble foliage in old chased ornaments, convolutions of filigree work, but in these, they have such a luxury of forms that of a hundred which at first appeared exactly the same no two were formed alike on close examination.”
The Māori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand, where a prominent warrior culture emerged. The Māori originated with settlers from eastern Polynesia, who arrived in New Zealand during multiple canoe voyages between 1250 and 1300. In relative isolation, the New Zealand Polynesians developed a unique culture that became known as “Māori,” with their language, mythology, distinctive crafts, and performing arts.
The artist, Gottfried Lindauer (1839 – 1926), was an artist from Bohemian in the Austrian Empire, now part of the Czech Republic. He migrated to New Zealand and became famous for his portraits, especially his many paintings of the Māori people. He left his homeland in 1874 to avoid being drafted to the Austrian military service. In New Zealand, many prominent Māori chiefs commissioned his work, which accurately records their tattoos, clothing, ornaments, and weapons.
Tā moko – Māori Tattoo
Tā moko is the permanent marking of the face and body as traditionally practiced by Māori of New Zealand. Tattoo arts are typical in the Māori culture, and the traditional implements and methods employed were similar to those used in other parts of Polynesia. In pre-European Māori culture, many, if not most, high-ranking persons received moko, and those who went without them were seen as persons of lower social status. Receiving moko constituted an essential milestone between childhood and adulthood, and was accompanied by many rites and rituals.
Māori Tattoos signaled status and rank for both men and women. Men generally received moko on their faces, buttocks, and thighs. Women usually wore moko on their lips and chins. Other parts of the body known to have moko include women’s foreheads, buttocks, thighs, necks and backs, and men’s backs, stomachs, and calves.
Historically, moko was distinct from tattooing, in that chisels carved the skin, not punctured. This left the skin with grooves rather than a smooth surface.
In the last twenty years, there has been a resurgence in the practice of tā moko in New Zeland, for both men and women. It has been adopted as a sign of cultural identity and a reflection of the general revival of the language and Māori culture.
Paratene Te Manu
- Painting: Paratene Te Manu
- Artist: Gottfried Lindauer
- Medium: Oil on canvas
- Date: 1890’s
- Dimensions: 834 x 714 x 50 mm
- Museum: Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
- Name: Gottfried Lindauer
- Born: 1839 – Pilsen, Bohemia, now the Czech Republic
- Died: 1926 (aged 87) – Woodville, Wellington, New Zealand
- Notable Works
A Tour of the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
- “Tamati Waka Nene” by Gottfried Lindauer
- “Paratene Te Manu” by Gottfried Lindauer
- “In Time of Peril” by Edmund Blair Leighton
- “Blow Blow Thou Wind” by John Everett Millais
- How did Queen Victoria respond when she met this Māori warrior?
- Are Māori Tattoos a unique art form?
- Traditional Māori tattooing is considered sacred.
“My bravery is inherited from the chief, who were my forebears.”
“Seek the treasure you value most dearly: if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain.”
“It would be better to let others praise.”
“He who stands lives; he who sits perishes.”
“There is food at the end of my hands.”
“You may dodge smoke on land, but you cannot dodge current at sea.”
“When one chief disappears, another is ready to appear. No one is indispensable.”
“Don’t die like an octopus, die like a hammerhead shark.”
“Industry begets security; idleness begets insecurity.”
“What is the food of the leader? It is knowledge. It is communication.”
“An active person will remain healthy, while a lazy one will become sick.”
“To rest on human support is unreliable, to rest on terra-firma is sure.”
“As man disappears from sight, the land remains.”
– Māori Proverb
Photo Credit: Gottfried Lindauer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons