Painstakingly constructed by hand of plant fiber and precious feathers from endemic birds of Hawai'i, feather cloaks and capes provided spiritual protection to Hawaiian chiefs for centuries while proclaiming their royal status. Few of the artworks known as n? hulu ali'i, or royal feathers, survive today except in museums and private collections. Through photographs and scholarly essays, Royal Hawaiian Featherwork highlights approximately seventy-five rare examples of the finest featherwork extant: capes and cloaks ('ahu'ula), royal staffs (k?hili), feather lei (lei hulu manu), helmets (mahiole), feathered god images (akua hulu manu), and related paintings and works on paper. With their brilliant coloring and abstract compositions of crescents, triangles, circles, quadrilaterals, and lines, the artworks are both beautiful and rich in cultural significance.
This lavishly illustrated volume also serves as the catalogue to accompany the first exhibition of Hawaiian featherwork to be staged on the U.S. continent, scheduled for a six-month run starting in August 2015 at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The book and exhibition provide an overdue opportunity for the public to discover the central role these artworks played in the culture and history of the Hawaiian Islands, to explore their unparalleled technical craftsmanship, and to discover an aesthetic tradition unique to the Hawaiian archipelago. Hardcover, 280 pages.
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