Art/Auctions logo

African and Oceanic Art

Sotheby's

2 PM, November 15, 2002

Sale 7845

Tshowke male chief figure

Lot 91, Rare and Important Tshowke male chief figure, 24 1/2 inches high

By Carter B. Horsley

This African and Oceanic Art auction at Sotheby's is highlighted by many superb and unusual works.

Although only about two-thirds of the offered lots sold, many of the finest lots went above their high estimates, reflecting the market's concentration on quality.

African Art


The front and back covers of the auction's catalogue are illustrated with Lot 91, a very powerful and superb Tshowke male chief figure that is 24 1/2 inches high. The statue is in near perfect condition except for the missing tip of one figure and it has a marvelous black patina.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"This rare chief figure, mwanagana, or 'lord of the land,' was carved in the Muzamba school, near the Kwango river in Angola. The very distinctive Muzamba style in expressed in the mask-like face and aggressive mouth in which the pointed teeth protrude slightly and are outlined by a defined, oval mouth.The offered, large-scale chief figure is the third Muzamba figure known of this proportion and particularly expressive quality, particularly in the mouth. Of the [other] two neither compares to the dynamism demonstrated in the offered figure's expressive features and turned, flexed gesture. In addition, the sculptor of the offered lot has placed great emphasis on the elaborate headdress."

The lot has an estimate and $150,000 to $250,000 and sold for $240,500 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.

Epa headdress, Yoruba, by Bamgboye

Lot 47, Epa headdress, Yoruba, by Bamgboye or his atelier, 54 inches high

One of the more spectacular pieces in the auction is Lot 47, a Yoruba Epa headdress, Bamgboye or atelier of Bamgboye. This 54-inch-high work has a janiform helmet-mask that supports a circular platform on which is an elaborate court scene with white and blue pigment surmounted by the seated central chief figure. Bamgboye, Chief Alaga of Odo-owa, near Osi in Nigeria, the Yoruba carver, died in 1978 and had carved elaborate masks for the Epa festivals of northern Ekiti towns. The catalogue notes that "this mask compares very closely with its magnificent hierarchical composition, Bamgboye's trademark, to another Epa mask in the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts." It has an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000 and sold for $34,655.

Female figure, Bamana

Lot 1, Female Figure, Bamana, Ségou-Saro region, 22 3/4 inches high

Lot 1 is a "superb and rare" Bamana female figure from the Ségou-Saro region. The 22 3/4-inch high statue is highly stylized with elongated neck and head and huge hands. Created for use by the Jo society on the Niger River in south-central Mali, it is one of fewer than 20 known examples. It has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000 and sold for $83,650.

Another Yoruba piece is Lot 56, a "superb" Gelede mask from the Anago area. The 11 3/4-inch-high mask is very finely carved and is notable for its abstract angular ears and scarification markings. It has an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000 and sold for $32,862.

Toma/Kissi protective figure

Lot 7, Toma/Kissi protective figure, 16 inches high

Lot 7 is a very interesting Toma/Kissi protective figure that is 16 inches high with a hollowed body protecting an inset standing male pomdo soapstone figure with worn facial features. The main figure has a ringed neck and ritual abrasion on the mouth, with a band of brass bells around the neck. The head and neck of the main figure have a nice dark patina while the exposed wood of the main body of the main figure indicates it was once wrapped in cloth. The lot has an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000 and sold for $22,705.

Sikasingo/Boyo female figure

Lot 61, Sikasingo/Boyo female figure, 8 inches high

Lot 61 is a "fine and rare" Sikasingo/Boyo female figure that is quite remarkable for its angularity, especially in the treatment of the left arm. The 8-inch-high statue was once in the collection of Ernest Anspach. It has an estimate of $4,000 to $6,000 and sold for $7,710.

Lot 79 is an intriguing small Yombe minature Nikisi figure. Only 4 1/2 inches tall, it has a large head that is tilted slightly backwards and an angular posture with wrappings abound the legs and neck. It has an estimate of $1,200 to $1,800 and sold for $17,925!

Fang marionette head

Lot 84, Fang marionette head, 12 inches high

Lot 84 is an impressive Fang marionette head that is 12 inches high. "Unlike the more well known Fang reliquary guardian heads which often have a black and resinous patina, this head resembles more closely the Fang ngil masks in both form, surface and structure. It has an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000 and sold for $169,000.

Zulu vessel

Lot 94, Zulu vessel, 21 1/4 inches high

Lot 94 is a stunning Zulu vessel, 21 1/4 inches high, with an elaborate and very impressive framework of ribbed handles. It was consigned by the Collection of Estelle Abrams and has an estimate of $8,000 to $12,000. It sold for $54,775.

Oceanic Art


The Oceanic Art section of the auction offers several wonderful works.

Grade Society figure, Vanuatu

Lot 159, Grade Society Figure, Vanuatu, Banks Islands, probably Venua Lava, 46 1/2 inches high

Lot 159 is a "rare and important" fernwood figure from Vanuatu, Banks Island, probably Venua Lava. The 46 1/2-inch-high figure is wonderfully stylized with hunched head and extended arms grasping the west. The work was once in the collection of Sir Jacob Epstein of London and Ben Heller of New York. It has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000 and sold for $113,625.

Grade-Society headdress, Vanuatu

Lot 145, Grade-Society headdress, Vanuatu, Southern Malekula, 13 inches high

Lot 145 is a "fine and rare" Vanuatu, Southern Malekula, Grade-Society headdress that is 13 inches high and decorated with red ochre, black and white mineral pigment. It is made of fernwood, fiber and vegetal paste over a wood structure and is distinguished by "side-tresses in the form of hands," according to the catalogue. It has an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000 and sold for $26,888.

Mask, New Britian, Gazelle peninsula

Lot 145, mask, New Britain, Gazelle Peninsula, Uramot Baining people, 61 inches high

Even more dramatic is Lot 146, a "rare" New Britain, Gazelle Peninsula, Uramot Baining People, mask that was formerly in the collections of the Hiltrup Mission Museum in Muenster, Germany, and Wayne Heathcote. The 61-inch-high mask was worn at night by the Uramot Baining who live in the mountainous interior of the Gazelle Peninsula and were used during performances known as "snake dances," the catalogue noted. The highly stylized mask has huge eyes beneath very large panels that allegedly represent tree forks. It has an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000 and sold for $21,510.

Lot 187 is a beautiful war and dancing club from the Fijian Islands. Collected by the Rev. Joseph Waterhouse between 1850 and 1857, it was formerly in the Wayne Heathcote Collection. It has an estimate of $8,000 to $12,000 and sold for $56,762.

An even more impressive dance club is Lot 176 from the Nadroga Navosa area, Viti Levu, Fiji Islands. The 43-inch-high club has the same provenance as Lot 187 but a much more intricately carved top. It has an estimate of $12,000 to $18,000 and sold for $29,875.

See The City Review article on the Spring 2002 African & Oceanic Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2001 African & Oceanic Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2001 African & Oceanic Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2000 African & Oceanic Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2000 African and Oceanic Art Auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 1999 African and Oceanic Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 1999 African and Oceanic Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 1998 Sotheby's African and Oceanic Art Auction

See The City Review article on the Spring 1998 Sotheby's African and Oceanic Art Auction

 

Home Page of The City Review