Hocken Collections buys 1835 portrait

The portrait Atay, Chief of Otargo, New Zealand has been bought by the University of Otago’s...
The portrait Atay, Chief of Otargo, New Zealand has been bought by the University of Otago’s Hocken Collections. Photo: Supplied
The University of Otago’s Hocken Collections has secured a rare individual portrait of a Maori chief after spending $158,000 to bring it home.

The portrait Atay, Chief of Otargo, New Zealand was a side portrait of a Maori chief with a detailed moko and was drawn by German artist Charles Rodius in 1835.

Hocken librarian Sharon Dell said the library was incredibly lucky to have the funds from the its endowment trust to purchase the piece, but noted that the Hocken Collections "didn’t do this very often".

The character and personality of the picture had captured Ms Dell and once she saw the picture  personally, "I knew we had to have it."

"For Hocken to have a piece like this, it is exceptional," she said.

Ms Dell said the portrait was very important as it has been drawn before the Treaty of Waitangi was signed.

Local Ngai Tahu and Hocken staff planned to work alongside each other to determine who Atay was.

The portrait would be collected from Mossgreen-Webb’s in Auckland in the next few weeks and brought to Dunedin.

Local Ngai Tahu and the Hocken were planning a celebration ceremony to welcome the portrait.

Once it rrived, the portrait would be on display at the Hocken as part of "Continuity and Change: The Hocken’s art across time" exhibition.

- Kayla Hodge

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