Topic: Arts

Portrait of Māori chief finds home

By Online News - Rereātea
  • South Island

A portrait of a young Māori chief, which was sold for a record price of $158,000, has found a permanent home at the University of Otago.

The portrait was created in 1835 by German-born artist Charles Rodius.  Its subject is unknown, but the full moko on such a youthful chief suggests he was a figure of some significance.

The work was created in Sydney at a time when there were a number of Māori in the city and a stream of people moving between New Zealand and Australia on trading vessels.

After being passed by descent to a private Melbourne collection, the university bought it at an auction in Auckland last week for a record price.

Librarian Sharon Dell describes the charcoal, graphite and watercolour work, titled 'Atay, Chief of Otago, New Zealand'. as ``exceptional’’.

It will be included in the university's Hocken Collection. 

"It is so well-drawn.  The young man’s personality leaps from the page.  There is nothing like it in our collection."

University Director of Māori Development, Tuari Potiki, is pleased that the piece will be coming back to Otago and that its preservation and protection is now ensured.  He looks forward to the artwork being shared with the community.

Local Ngāi Tahu and the Hocken Collections researchers intend to work together to discover who ‘Atay’ is and what became of him.