Carter B. Horsley
auction of African, Oceanic
and Pre-Columbian Art at Sotheby's November 17, 2006 is not large
but it is full of interesting and good works.
the most striking as
well as one of the smallest is Lot 330, a very beautiful Mezcala
stone head, Type M24. It is dated Late Pre-Classic, circa 300-100
B.C. It is 4 1/2 inches long and has a conservative estimate of
$6,000 to $8,000. It sold for $19,200 including the buyer's
premium as do all results mentioned in this article. The
catalogue notes that in their 1992 book, "Mezcala: Ancient
Stone Sculpture from Guerrero, Mexico," Carlo Gay and Frances
Pratt suggested that the work combines human and bat attributes,
which was not unusual in Olmec art and "is thought to represent
shamanic transformation, however it is a subject rarely seen in
carvings form Mezcala."
auction was not too
successful with only 69.5 percent of the 233 offered lots selling
for a total $3,686,940.
Lot 234 is a haunting Pentecost
mask that is 14 inches high and was collected the Rev. Alexander
Morton between 1887 and 1892. The island of Penecost is also known
as Raga and is in nortern Vanuatu which was formerly known as
the New Hebrides. An essay in the catalogue by Julian Harding
of London noted that "Densely forested and thinly populated,
it is nown to the outside world mainly for the rare wood masks,
called juban or hubwan, which
were made in the south
part of the island." "These dramatic masks...are among
the rarest and most sought after of all Oceanic sculptures.....The
present example which we may call the Morton mask displays enigmatic
iconogaphy. Anthopomorphic in its features, a very narrow face
is bisected by a protruding crescent nose, whle fin-like extensions
flank deeply recessed eyes on each side. A thin horizontal mouth
stands in contrast with a diaogonal axis connecting the eyes,
producing a powerful, uncanny, almost hypnotic expression. These
features combine to give the mask an extradinary intensity and
gravitas. Remarkable in the Morton mask is the
of the teeth with dots of gold paint. This is probably a later
but genuine addition and suggests that the mask continued to be
used for some time after first contact was made with Westerners."
The lkot has an estimate of
$60,000 to $90,000.
It sold for $228,000 to a European private collector.
Lot 248 is a "superb" pair of
from the Marquesas Islands. It is 61 1/8 inches high and was once
in the collection of Ambrose Vollard, then Jos Hessel of Paris,
then Jacob Epstein of London and the Carlo Monzino Collection.
The catalogue notes that the
work follows "the
traditional form of Marquesa architectural ornaments" and
that large scale figures such as this "are more commonly
found in stone." The entry also maintains that "the
importance of these two impressive Marquesas figures lies as much
in their sculpture and rarity as it does in their impact on the
appreciation of Pacific art and the development of modern art."
This lot for a while adorned Ambrose Vollard's cellar where he
entertained andit was published by Paul Guillaume in 1917 on the
occassion of his primitive art exhibition thta opened his gallery.
The lot hs an estimtae of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for
$352,000, an auction record for a Marquesas Islands work of art.
In a catalogue essay on "Jacob
and Carlo Monzino, two collectors ahead of their time," Jacob
Epstein, a famous sculptor, is quoted as recalling that he first
met Paul Guillaume in Paris in 1912 in Montmartre in a small attic
room: "He started the vogue in African work. Of course, it
was the artists who first saw the sculptural qaulities of African
work, and they were followed by the dealers who saw money in it."
The essay also quotes Carlo Monzino that "the culminating
moment for me: the acquisition of the Jacob Epstein Collection
in 1964. Many masterpiece from an unknown civilization, beloved
by a genius sculptor, sold by his widow to purchase a villa at
the shores of Lake Garda. And then the fascinating moments with
the 'big old,' Charles Ratton...And the travels to Africa, together
with Franco Monti. Love at first sight, for the 'negritude' -
in all senses - heat, dust, chicken, dirt everywhere....But an
irresistible fascination, so far away from the'exotic-charter'-style
toursist." The essay notes that Epstein, who was born in
the United States, but lived most of his life in England, died
in 1959, aged seventy-nine and left behind "one of the greatest
private collections of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, the Americas
and the Classic world.
Monzino began buying art in
1952 at the age
of 21 in London, concentrating first on Japanese art and then
buying paintings by Jackson pollock, Sam Francis and Franics Bacon.
In1958 he started collecting Pre-columbian, AFriacna, Oceaicn,
Indonesian and Cycladic atty and in the 1974 he was able to buy
about 40 percent of Epstein's collection.
Lot 258 is a large and "superb"
reliquary head that is 23 inches high and is from the Carlo Monzino
Collection and was formerly owned by André Derain, the
great Fauvist. The lot has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000.
It failed to sell.
One of the most spectacular and
in the auction is Lot 250, a Dayak funerary post that is 50 1/2
inches high. The highly weathered work was once in the Carlo Monzino
Collection and has a conservative estimate of $20,000 to $30,000.
It sold for $36,000.
Lot 220 is a very animated and
figure from Madagascar, Sakalava, Vezo that is 20 inches high
and Lot 221 is a more sedate female figure from the same area
that is a half inch higher. The catalogue quotes an expert as
stating that "The objects seem to come from one of the nine
or so funerary sites inthe regionof Morondova on Madagascar's
western coast." Each lot has an estimate of $15,000 to $25,000.
Lot 220 sold for $45,000. Lot 221 failed to sell.
lots were offered at the November 15, 2005 auction at Sotheby's
when they each had estimates of $25,000 to $35,000 and each was
passed at $22,500.
Lot 209 is a wonderful Ashanti
that is 18 inches high and notable for its striking coiffure of
four spherical nobs that the catalogue suggests may be an "abstract
representation of a group of terracotta pots carried by woman
on their head." The lot has a modest estimate of $10,000
to $15,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 214 is an impressive and
Ikenga shrine figurative group that is 37 1/2 inches high. The
caryatid figure is seated on a tripod stool and holds a seated
figure holding an inverted head. The work was once in the collection
of Charles Ratton of Paris. The lot has an estimate of $35,000
to $45,000. It sold for $42,000.
Lot 206 is a "superb" Senufo
rhythm pounder that is 45 inches high. In commentary about the
item in the catalogue, Burkhard Gottshalk observes:
"The Senufo are farmers living
Ivory Coast, southern Mali and southwestern Burkina Faso. Statues
like the present example were displayed in the groves of the poro
men's society and served both to spiritually protect members-to-be
prior to their initiation as well as to physically commemorate
notable ancestors.....During funerals of notable members they
were laid out together with the deceased and, after a metaphysical
seperation of body nad soul was believed to be complete, accompanied
by the body to the tomb. During this last journey members of the
poro carried the statues by holding them on their arms and periodically
pounding them onto the ground to dispel evil spirits....The large
statues, for which the present sculpture gives a good example,
are rare because they were passed on from one generation to the
next. When an iconoclastic religious movement called Massa emerged
from Mali and reached the Senufo area in the early 1950s it was
an important moment for collectors and dealers who in fact saved
many of these sculptures from destruction....Today...[they] are
venerated as icons of African art."
The lot has an estimate of
$150,000 to $250,000.
It failed to sell.
Lot 218 is an impressive and
Fang reliquary guardian figure that is 18 inches high and was
once owned by Paul Guillaume, the Paris art dealer, and then by
Maurice de Vlaminck, the artist. "It was Guillaume,"
the catalogue entry notes, "who believed that Fang statuary
was the essence of African art. Haing sold his first piece of
African art in 111 to Joseph Brummer, Guillaume became the most
prestigious African art collector and dealer in the period between
the two world wars." The lot has an estimate of $100,000
to $150,000. It sold for $120,000.
Lot 355 is an impressive Mayan
that is 9 1/2 inches high and is Jaina, Late Classic, circa A.D.
550-950. It has a modest estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. It
sold for $22,800.
Lot 361 is a Veracruz hed with
a jaguar helmet,
Late Classic, circa A.D. 550-950, that is 6 1/4 inches high and
distinguished by its relatively simple but strong form and the
large animal eyes. It has a modest estimate of $8,000 to $10,000.
It sold for $30,000.
Lot 292 and Lot 293 are fine
silver Inca figures
that come from the Jacob Epstein and Carlo Monzino collections.
Lot 292 is a male figure and has an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000
and Lot 293 is a female figure and hasan estimate of $10,000 to
$15,000. Lot 292 sold for $27,000 and Lot 293 sold for
Lot 334 is very good Mezcala
temple with six columns that is notable for its curved top and
base and fine sculpting. It is dated circa 300-100 B.C., and is
5 3/8 inches high. It has a modest estimate of $6,000 to $8,000.
It sold for $6,000.
Lot 358 is a wonderful
tripod vessel, Early Classic, circa A.D. 250-450. The vessel is
6 inches in diameter and is notable for its large diagonal band
depicting abstracted serpents and the small heads attached around
the basal rim. The lot has a modest estimate of $1,500 to $2500.
It sold for $3.900.
Lot 410 is a large Teotihuacan
that is 15 inches high is dated Classic, circa A.D. 450-650. It
has a modest estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It sold for