Like many Victorian gentlemen interested in the natural world, Reginald Brewer collected and carefully pressed ferns in a handmade album while traveling in New Zealand. Surprisingly, he also collected a different type of native specimen: portraits of heavily tattooed Maori chiefs by Elizabeth Pulman, a prominent English-born photographer in Auckland. Traditional Maori ta moko—slicing or chiseling the skin—yields deep grooves stained with dark pigment, a practice frowned upon by missionaries and abandoned by the 1860s. Brewer’s inclusion of such photographs amid other New Zealand specimens strikingly illustrates both his curiosity about the natural world and his colonial perspective.


Cataloguing data may change with further research.

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Artist
Elizabeth Pulman, British, 1836–1900, active New Zealand
Reginald Wormald Brewer, British, 1850–1915
Title
New Zealand Ferns
Date
c. 1894
Medium
Album of gelatin silver prints, albumen silver prints and pressed ferns
Dimensions
Closed: 14 3/4 × 11 7/8 × 2 1/4 in. (37.5 × 30.2 × 5.7 cm)
Credit Line

Museum purchase funded by the Buddy Taub Foundation, Dennis A. Roach and Jill Roach, Directors

Current Location
Not on view
Accession Number
2017.353
Classification
Books & Manuscripts
Provenance

[Librairie Serge Plantureux, Paris]; purchased by MFAH, 2017.