By Carter B.
This season Sotheby's has
combined its Tribal
Art, American Indian Art and Pre-Columbian Art auctions into one
catalogue. The 87 lots of Oceanic Art start the auction at 10:15AM,
Saturday, May 19, 2001, followed by 159 lots of the arts of Africa.
The afternoon session, which starts at 2PM, will begin with 27
lots of American Indian Art, the smallest number in many seasons,
followed by 148 lots of Pre-Columbian Art. While the sale
some good prices, only 75.66 percent of the 419 offered lots sold
fora total of $6,767,745 including the buyer's premiums.
The Oceanic section of this
auction has many
fine works included a superb canoe prow, a fine canoe splash board,
a wonderful dance paddle, an excellent gope board, a nice "pig
killer," a fine ancestor plaque, and some good masks.
The canoe prow, shown, above,
Lot 38, comes
from the Geelvink Bay in Irian Jaya and measures 83 inches in
length and has a conservative estimate of $60,000 to $90,000.
It sold for $55, 375 including the buyer's premium as do all
results mentioned in this article. The prows were affixed
to the bows of large out-rigger canoes and incorporate in their
design squatting korwar figures who represent the
and serve to protect the canoe and, according to the catalogue,
the prow was then decorated with cassowary feathers, cut short
to suggest short hair.
Lot 73, shown above is a
Maori transverse board for a war canoe head, 29 1/2 inches wide,
that was collected by Captain William Greer circa 1850 and has
an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000. It sold for $235,750.
The catalogue notes that "a review of the published Maori
figure-heads reveals that this transverse board is the only one
outside a museum collection. This board is one of the most elaborate
known, with the naturalistic male kneeling chief figure onthe
side whichwouldhave faced the rowers (as indicated by his male
facial tatoo pattern...standing against a field of repeating diamond
motifs. ....Stylistically, the prow resembled a number of architectural
figures carved by the Te Arawa tribe of the Bay of Plenty,or,
perhaps even more, some by the Ngati Kahungunu of Hawke's Bay,
both in the northeast of the island" (New Zealand).
Lot 10, is a fine Massim canoe
lagim, the rectangular plank flaring at one end,
elaborately carved with scrolling openwork motif, two stylized
human figures in the upper middle section, according to the catalogue.
The board is 32 inches high and has a modest estimate of $5,000
to $7,000. It sold for $10,800.
The dance paddle is Lot 64 and
comes from Easter
Island. The 33-inch-high rapa is, the catalogue
"a symbol of authority, and primarily used in jurisprudence
ceremonies." The paddle was given to the Plymouth Museum
in Devon in 1899 and was later in the James T. Cooper Collection.
It has an ambitious estimate of $125,000 to $200,000. It sold
Another Easter Island object is
Lot 67, a 16
1/8-inch-high wooden sculpture of an emaciated man. "This
magnificent figure falls into the category of classic male moai
kavakava with the dramatic ribcage encircling the torso and
the inset obsidian and fish vertebrae eyes beneath the strong
brow. The glyph on the crown depicts mirrored rooster figures,
one of the images incorporated into the glyphs of documented East
Island figures. A similar piece is at the Art Institute of Chicago
and a related one in the British Museum. The lot has an conservative
estimate of $125,000 to $175,000. It sold for $159,750.
Lot 22, shown above, is a
superb New Caledonian
bird head club, 30 1/4 inches high, that has a conservative estimate
of $5,000 to $7,000 and is one of the best of its kind. It
sold for $13,200.
Lot 29 is a superb Papuan Gulf,
gopbe board, 56 1/2 inches high, of large flat oval form and pierced
around the rim for the attachment of ornaments and decorated in
high relief with a figure of classical Papuan style in black and
red pigments against a field of white. The board was once in the
collection of Walter Spies, a Russian-born, German artist who,
according to the catalogue, between the world wars, "put
together one of the best early collections of Indonesian art."
The lot has an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000. It sold for
The "pig-killer" is Lot 21, a
1/4-inch-high shaft that tapers to an abstract diamond-shaped
face, "the triangular nose with pierced septum framed by
oval eyes encircled by a ridged rim, with a flaring conical section
emerging from beneath the chin and a finial with four protruding
conical sections above. The fearsome and impressive lot has an
estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. It failed to sell.
Some of the most spectacular
colorful and abstract
Oceanic works of art are ancestor plaques from the Central Highlands,
Siane, and Lot 19 is a particularly complex example. These New
Guinea objects were used in ceremonies associated with the feeding
of ancestor spirits and the propagation of pigs, the catalogue
noted, adding that the gerua boards were worn in
strapped to the male heads of families" and were "spiritually
activated through the placement of crown of human hair at the
tope and various valuables attached to other parts of it. The
58 1/2-inch high sculpture has an estimate of $70,000 to $90,000.
It sold for $75,500.
Lot 18 is a rare Southern
mask, 23 5/8 inches high, that has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.
It sold for $69, 750. "Masks from the Pentecost
are among the rarest masks in Oceania," the catalogue states,
and this mask is stylistically "closest in its multiple piercing
around the rim, the treatment of the pierced septum and the raised
elliptical sections below the pierced eyes, to another in the
collection of the Musée d'Ethnographie" in Geneva,
Lot 3 is a fine and rare Sepik
River mei mask,
17 inches high, that is covered with a thick mudpack and has boar's
tusks inserted through the nose. It has a very fine and varied
patina on the exposed parts of the face and an estimate of $20,000
to $30,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 2 is a thin New Guinea,
mask of hollowed oval form that is very abstract and elegant.
It has a modest estimate of $6,000 to $9,000. It failed to
The African Arts section is
fine Dogon, Temne, Baule, Ibibio, Bamileke and Songe figures,
a Benin vessel, a Benin vessel, Ekpeye and Bokyi headdresses,
a Lula mask, a Fang reliquary guardian head, a Yombe flywhisk,
a Luba bowstand, a Lozi stool, a Nguni/Northern Transvaal staff,
and a Tsonga headrest.
Lot 95 is a fine and rare Dogon
3/4 inches high, shown above, that was collected in Africa before
1903 by a French civil servant. "This elaborate and unusual
figure was probably carved in the Southern Bandiagara Cliffs region,
in the Bombou-Toro style," the catalogue stated, adding that
"the central axis, surrounded by caryatid figures, links
the base, representing the earth, and the barrel chest, representing
the sky. This magnificent lot has a very conservative estimate
of $65,000 to $75,000. It sold for $58,250.
Lot 101 is a less complex but
Dogon figure of a woman with the same provenance. The 20 1/4-inch
high statue has an estimate of $45,000 to $55,000. It sold
Lot 106, shown above, is a rare
figure, 22 1/2 inches high, that was once in the Carlo Monzino
Collection. This highly stylized and very evocative wooden sculpture
stands of unusually bulky but still delicate feet and has a tapering
torso with broad shoulders and an elongated ridged neck. The rings
at the neck, the catalogue noted, "signify health and beauty,
while the composed facial features and closed mouth suggest poise
and self-control. This is an exquisite lot and has a conservative
estimate of $25,000 to $35,000. It sold for $49,625.
Lot 150 is a superb Ibibio,
Southern Eket region,
shrine figure of abstract form with a very broad open mouth bearing
teeth. The intimidating 24 1/4-inch high statue, shown above,
has an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 242, shown above, is a fine
with a two-part beard of braided fiber with cane balls attached
and a headdress of cane balls and woven raffia. This lot has an
estimate of $8,000 to $12,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 151 is a fine Benin vessel,
17 1/4 inches
in diameter, with a lid decorated with "complex iconography
in relief including a scene with the traditional Benin altar supporting
a rattle staff, ukhure, a bronze head surmounted by
and two ram's heads flanked by a European holding a sword and
a whip (?) and a Nini chief in full regalia holding the ukhure
and supported by an attendant to this left, and to the left a
battle scene and a leopard eating a head (?), and the right of
the European and naked upper torso and a riderless horse, separated
from a horse and snake, all surrounding the central panel on the
lid with two fish, two turtles and a curled pangolin on the handle.
The box decorated with a horizontal figure with a gun being eaten
by an enormous serpent against a field of leaves."
This quite extraordinary,
indeed, almost epic,
vessel was formerly in the collection of Jacob Epstein and the
Carlo Monzino collection. The lot has a conservative estimate
of $7,000 to $10,000. It sold for $19,150.
Lot 171 is a fine and rare Lula
mask with a
fine patina of blue and white pigments. The simple but very powerful
mask has an estimate of $8,000 to $12,000. It is 15 3/4 inches
high. It sold for $29,350.
Lot 159 is a rare Ekpeye
headdress that is
80 inches high and was at one time in the Lynne and Robert Rubin
Collection in New York and exhibited at the Museum for African
Art in New York in 1995. The intricate abstract mask belongs to
the Egbukere masking tradition among the Ekpeye
and has an estimate of $18,000 to $22,000. It sold for
shown above, is a
fine and rare Bokyi face mask, 11 1/2 inches high, framed by large
circular leather ear flaps with indigenous restoration. "Hide
ears," according to the catalogue, "are often symbolic
of the power of the elephant, and used in regulatory societies."
It has an estimate of $15,000 to $25,000. It sold for $31,800.
Lot 160 is a superb Bokyi
from the Carlo Monzino Collection that was exhibited at the Center
for African Art in New York in 1986 and is nearly identical to
a headdress at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Janiform
skin-covered masks are very rare, and originated in the Cross
River region of Nigeria and Cameroon. This headdress represents
a male and female with scarification typical of Cross River pre-nuptial
rites. The tattooed nsibidi motifs, the treatment
eyes, fine nose with flared nostrils and deep cheeklines place
the headdress clearly amongst the Bokyi. The horns are indicative
of a coiffure style rather than an association with hunting (Keith
Nicklin, personal communication)." This classic, scary sculpture
is 21 1/4 inches high and has a conservative estimate of $25,000
to $35,000. It sold for $31,800.
Lot 177 is a fine Fang
reliquary guardian head,
17 3/4 inches high, that has an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000.
It failed to sell. "In addition to the great
evident in this head, it shows extreme age in the fine encrustation
of the face and coiffure. The date of carving must therefore be
placed well back into the nineteenth century, if not earlier,"
the catalogue stated.
172, a rare Yoruba
Egungun helmet, 12 inches high, shown above, right, has an estimate
of $35,000 to $45,000. It sold for $32,950.
Lot 178 is considerably less
noble than the
previous lot but full of mystery and drama. It is a formidable
and rare Bamileke male figure standing on fragmentary muscular
legs leading to rounded hips, the large protruding abdomen with
a rectangular hole and rounded shoulders issuing bent arms, the
left hand clasped to the chest, the right hand to the mouth, the
thick neck supporting a large head with open circular mouth revealing
filed teeth, beneath sloping forehead and cop-like coiffure,"
according to the catalogue's description. The aged and weathered,
34 5/8-inch-high sculpture was formerly in the collection of Prince
Sadruddin Aga Kahn in Switzerland and has a conservative estimate
of $25,000 to $35,000. It sold for $81,250.
Lot 188 is a fine Yombe
flywhisk that is property
of the Collection of Nicole and John Dintenfass of New York. The
13-inch high figure depicts a man with a brass ring around his
neck and another around his crown that is "surmounted by
a receptacle for the elephant hair whisk. The charming lot has
an estimate of $15,000 to $25,000. It sold for $14,400.
Lot 198 is a superb Songe male
figure wearing an elaborate fur and feather headdress and embossed
copper face covers. The imposing, 33-inch-high figure has an estimate
of $70,000 to $100,000. It sold for $170,750.
Lot 200 is a superb Kuba mask
that is 16 1/2
inches high that is extremely decorative and awesome with scarification
marks, patterned forehead, cloth headdress and extensive use of
shells and beads. It has an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000. It
sold for $23,750.
Lot 220, which is illustrated
on the back cover
of the catalogue, is a superb Luba bowstand, 38 1/2 inches high,
that was formerly in the collections of Charles Ratton and Geneviéve
Rodier in Paris and the Barbier-Mueller Museum in Geneva. The
impressive lot has an estimate of $70,000 to $100,000. It
Lot 221 is a Lozi stool that
has two leopards
climbing its legs. The 19 5/8-inch-high stool has an estimate
of $6,000 to $9,000. Lot 246 is a Tsonga headrest with a nicely
carved face as its support. The 5 1/2-inch-high headrest has an
estimate of $12,000 to $18,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 232 is a fine
staff that is encircled by a raised serpent decorated with pokerwork
dots beneath the geometric openwork form surmounted by an undulated
abstract finial. The 37 1/4-inch high staff has an estimate of
$2,000 to $3,000 and is quite remarkably abstract in its openwork
near the top. It sold for $2,040.
With only 27 lots, half of
which are rugs,
this section of this auction represents a sharp decline in the
traditional amount of American Indian Art offered in the spring
Lot 323 is a Tlingit Ceremonial
Chilkat, that is 66 inches wide and is reported to have been woven
in the village of Klukwan in Alaska about 1890 by Gus Klaney.
It has an estimate of $8,000 to $10,000. It sold for $22,600.
The highlight of this part of
the auction is
Lot 325, a Northwest Coast dagger, probably Tlingit, that is 21
1/2 inches high, and has a finely carved horn veneer handle in
the form of a "voracious sea creature, with thick lips, jagged
teeth, flaring nostrils and hollowed eye frames with classic ovoid
eye rims, holding a shaman figure in its caping mouth, flanked
by a pair of human arms. The lot, which is illustrated on the
back cover of the catalogue, has a conservative estimate of $18,000
to $22,000. It sold for $28,350.
Lot 324, shown above, is a
bentcorner box, 17 1/2 inches long, which has a conservative estimate
of $8,000 to $12,000. It sold for $19,150.
Lot 302, a classic
Navajo man's wearing
blanket, was estimated at $20,000 to $30,000 and sold for $401,750.
The Pre-Columbian Art section
of this catalogue
is fairly substantial with many interesting lots such as a fine
feather panel, a Chimu figural marker and Chimu beakers, an Inca
silver finial, some Valdivia abstract stone figures, a good Quimbaya
seated figure, a lot of gold pieces, several Costa Rican stone
metates, a Jalisco platform scene, a Veracruz polychrome jaguar,
a Mayan polychrome female figure and a Mayan painted vessel.
Lot 410, shown above, is a
panel, circa A.D. 600-800, that is 19 3/4 by 25 inches, of an
eight-pointed vibrant yellow star outlined in orange with a central
human face marked by grinning mouth and squared eyes. This stunning
panel has an estimate of $8,000 to $10,000. It sold for
Lot 412 is a Chimu wood figural
A.D. 1100-1400. The 21 1/2-inch high statue, shown above, depicts
a man whose forehead is decorated with mother-of-pearl inlays
now covered with a headband of human hair, oval eyes marked by
pearl pupils, a loincloth decorated with other-of-pearl plaques
incised with avians in flight and the chest decorated with turquoise
beads with circular rondels and the face covered with resinous
red pigment showing textile impressions. The lot, which is illustrated
on the catalogue's cover, has a conservative estimate of $8,000
to $12,000. It sold for $15,600.
The auction has many good
silver and gold objects.
Lot 419, shown below, consists
of three Chimu
silver effigy beakers with repoussé facial features, circa
A.D. 1300-1500 with a conservative estimate of $8,000 to $10,000.
It sold for $16,800. Lot 421 is a Middle Chimu
Sican, circa A. D. 950-1250, 5 3/8 inches high, that has an estimate
of $15,000 to $20,000. It failed to sell. Lot 422
3 7/8-inch high silver finial in the form of an animated howling
feline, circa A. D. 1470-1532 and it has a conservative estimate
of $6,000 to $8,000. It sold for $16,800.
Lot 436 is a rare Calima gold
Malagana style, circa 300 B.C., to A.D. 100, which is solid cast
and depicts the imposing figure of a high priest in an elaborate
ceremonial mask and gripping cylindrical instruments in each hand.
The 2 5/8-inch-high pendant has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.
It sold for $104,250. The catalogue provides the following
"This unique figural pendant is
the earliest Colombian representations of an elite religious figure,
known as the empowered shaman. The rich symbolic imagery on such
gold figures provides vivid insight into the myths and practices
of the ancient peoples of the region. The high priest is shown
in an empowered state, represented by the tingunas or
of vital force created by the transformation of the 'spirit body.'
…The Malagana style is named for the site in the floodplain
region in the Cauca Valley of the Southwestern Cordillera area,
and has material dating as early as the 4th Century B.C."
Lot 440 is a Veraguas gold
circa A.D. 800-1500, of a twin-headed figure with looped arms
holding an arched serpent in both hands, each simian face with
high forehead and wide-rimmed mouth displaying teeth. The piece
has been exhibiting in three museums and was in a traveling exhibition,
"The World of Ancient Gold," at the New York World's
Fair in 1964-5. It has an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. It
sold for $41,000.
A fine pendant for the Calima
436, is Lot 441, a Popayán gold anthropomorphic figure,
circa A.D. 1200-1500, that has a beaked nose, spiral eyes and
ears, and oversized hands and is similar to a piece in the Alice
M. Kaplan Collection. The 3 3/8-inch-high pendant has an estimate
of $30,000 to $50,000. It sold for $46,750.
Lot 442 is a large Tairona gold
A.D. 1000-1500 that was once in the Alice M. Kaplan Collection,
which acquired it from Andre Emmerich Inc., in 1970. The 7
ornament is in the form of a impressive stylized avian in flight,
surmounted by a row of raptorial birds perched with wings folded
to the body with each avian supporting a human figure seated.
The lot has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for
Another impressive pendant is
Lot 445, a large
Coclé double-figural pendant, Parita, Azuero Peninsula,
circa A.D.800-1500. This 6 1/4-inch wide gold piece shows two
supernatural warriors of dramatic stature holding tall paddle-shaped
clubs and scepters. The lot has an estimate of $80,000 to $100,000.
It sold for $92,750.
Lot 452 is a large Diquis gold
circa A.D. 800-1500 that shows a "fierce" figure standing
within a rectangular frame with his arms terminated in serpent
heads and serpents "issuing from the feet and behind the
head." The 5 1/8-inch high piece has an estimate of $50,000
to $70,000. It failed to sell.
Certainly such gold pieces are
as are three Costa Rican stone metates of gray volcanic stone,
Lot 466-8, that are the best offered in recent years. Lot 466
is dated circa A.D. 300-700 and depicts the jaguar with displayed
fangs and long curled tail. The 32 1/2-inch long table has a
estimate of $7,000 to $10,000. It failed to sell.
is from the Atlantic Watershed Region and is dated A.D. 1-500
and is of the "flying panel" type with a sunken platform
and an openwork base composed of a central raptorial bird standing
with wings outspread and grasping a snake in its curved beak with
three pillar legs each carved on one side with similar avians
showed incised wings folded against the body and an additional
support carved with two human figures, one above the other. The
15 1/4-inch-long metate has a conservative estimate of $4,500
to $5,500. It failed to sell. Lot 468 is a 34
metate from the same region and date as Lot 467, but its supports
are more rounded and not as distinguished as those on Lot 467.
This lot has an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000. It failed to
Lot 487 is a Jalisco Platform
circa 100 B.C. - A.D. 250, a 7 3/4-inch long scene that portrays
a ritual curing with four figures. The lot has an estimate of
$12,000 to $18,000. It sold for $12,000.
Lot 520 is a spectacular
jaguar, Late Classic, circa A.D. 550-950, 24 1/4 inches high,
that has an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. It sold for
Lot 540 is a Mayan painted
Late Classic, circa A.D. 550-950, 6 1/4 inches high, that is a
delicately painted vessel that is very Oriental in the style of
its monochromatic painting. It has an estimate of $30,000 to $40,000.
It sold for $32,950.