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African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art
Including Property from the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation

Sotheby's New York

2 P.M., May 18, 2011

Sale 8749

Pair of Elema Bird Masks form Papuan Gulf

Lot 294, pair of Elema bird masks, Papuan gulf, Papua New Guinea, barkcloth, 48 and 49 1/4 inches high

By Carter B. Horsley

It is not very often that great masterpieces appear on the market that are virtually without peer in their cultures and can only be described as supreme world class treasures of art.

The sale total for this auction was $10,104,504, well over the pre-sale high estimate of $5.9 million.

Oceanic Art

This auction offers the astute connoisseur the opportunity to buy a near perfect pair of Elema bird masks from the Papuan Gulf in Papua New Guinea for the mere pittance of $250,000 to $350,000.  These duckie-wuckies are fabulous and not just because there is a very popular "Aflac" duck bounding around the television channels.


Detail of one of the Elema birds in Lot 294

Detail of one of the Elema birds in Lot 294

The lot was "reportedly collected in situ by a British missionary circa 1875," the catalogue entry said, adding that mask illustrated above was acquired by Jean-Paul Barbier of Geneva who sold it in the 1990s to Marcia and John Frieda who had acquired the other mask from Walter Randel in the 1970s.

The catalogue notes that each Elema clan used distinctive eye designs, making the owner of the sculpture identifial to all who saw it.  'In traditional eharo fashion at the top of the cone chaped face, each mask has a smaller head with a slender neck leading to a set of downward strethed, wing-like arms, jutting from the sides.  The is human hair on both hears, each has minimal remnants of ears and the nose septums are pierced for an ornament to be inserved.

The lot has a modest estimate of $250,000 to $350,000.  
Lot 294 sold for $1,022,500 including the buyer's premium.  

Asmat seated female figure

Lot 169, Asmat seated female figure, Irian Java, Indonesia, 42 1/4 inches

Lot 169 is a superb Asmat seated female figure from Irian Java, Indonesia.  It is 42 1/4 inches high and has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It was formerly in the collection of Charles Ratton in Paris and the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York.  It sood for $50,000.  The figure resembles a praying mantis that the catalogue entry notes is a good "headhunting" symbol.

Ngala ceremonial mask

Lot 290, Ngala ceremonial mask, Sepik and April Rivers, Papua New Guinea, 42 1/2 inches high

Lot 290 is a dramatic and interesting Ngala ceremonial mask from the Sepik and April Rivers region of Papua New Guinea.  It was once in the collection of Marcia and John  Friede of New York.  It is 42 1/2 inches high and has an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000.  It sold for $25,000.


African Art

Fang reliquary figure

Lot 193, Fang Mvai male reliquary figure, Ntem River region, Gabon, 15 1/8 inches high

Lot 193 is a fine Fang Mvai male reliquary figure from the Ntem River region in Gabon.  It is 15 1/8 inches high and has a modest estimate of $80,000 to $120,000.

The piece was once in the collection of Paul Guillaume, the Paris art dealer who collaborated with Alfred Stieglitz in 1914 in organizing the Statuary of Wood from African Savages: The Roots of Modern Art at Stieglitz's gallery in New York, which was the first exhibition of African Art in the United States.  It was later acquired by the Pierre Matisse Gallery.   It sold for $158,500.

Fang mask

Lot 262, Fang mask, Equatorial Guinea, 15 1/2 inches high

Lot 262 is a strikingly beautiful, simple Fang mask from Equatorial Guinea.  It was once in the collection of Adriana and Robert Mnuchin of New York and the Pace Primitive and Ancient Art Gallery in New York.  It is 15 1/2 inches high and has and estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.  It sold for $98,500.

Kuba helmet mask

Lot 264, Kuba helmet mask, Democratic Republic of the Congo, decorated with feathers of the white-thighed hornbill, Eurasian honey buzzard and domestic fowl, 15 inches high

Lot 265 is a flamboyant and fine Kuba helmet mask from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The 15-inch high lot is decorated with feathers of the white -thighed hornbill, the Eurasian honey buzzard and domestic fowl.  It was acquired in 1983 from Pace Primitive and Ancient Art in New York.  It has an estimate of $12,000 to $18,0000.  It sold for $11,875.

Punu mash

Lot 258, Punu mask, Gabon, 11 1/4 inches high

Lot 258 is a Punu mask from Gabon that is 11 1/4 inches high.  According to the catalogue entry, "this beautiful Punu mask was pubished in 1915 by the German poet and art critic Carl Einstein (1885-1940) in his influential book Negerplastik.  A frield of the artist Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, as well as of the prominent modern art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiller..., Einstein had discovered African andOceanic art during his studies in Berlin...in the room of the Museum dur Volkerkunde....Negerplastick is credited as being the first monograph presenting African and Oceanic sculptures as art and highlighting its inspirational relationship to Cubism."  It has an estimate of $350,000 to $500,000.  It sold for $398,500.

Lot 250 is a Yoruba standing female figue offering a ram from Nigeria.  It is 35 1/2 inches high and was once in the collection of Merton D. Simpson.  It has an estimate of $200,000 to $400,000.   It sold for $1,650,500.
Pre-Columbian Art

Guerrero stone figural scepter

Lot 144, "Guerrero stone figural scepter, possibly Xochipala Region, Late Preclassic, circa 300-100 B.C., 15 1/2 inches high

Lot 144 is a superb and very abstractly stylized Guerrero stone figure scepter, possibly Xochipala Region.  The catalogue states it is Late Preclassic, circa 300 to 100 B.C.  It is 15 1/2 inches high and has a modest estimate of $15,000 to $25,000.  It sold for $40,625.  The female figure has a palette-form torso.

Teotihuacan Greenstone Mask

Lot 177, Teotihuacan mask, greenstone, Classic, circa A.D. 450-650, 6 1/2 inches high

Lot 177 is  an impressive Teoptihuacan greenstone mask from the Classic Period, circa A.D. 450-650.  It is 6 1/2 inches high and was in the collection of the Pierre Matisse Gallery.  It has an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000.  It sold for $530,500.

Calima gold headdress ornament

Lot 111, Calima gold headdress ornament, circa A.D. 200-400, 8 1/2 inches high

Lot 111 is an impressive Calima gold headdress ornament, circa A.D. 200-400.  It is 8 1/2 inches high and was formerly in the collections of Lord Rothschild in London and Andre Emmerich in New York.  It has a modest estimate of $9,000 to $12,000.  It sold for $18,750.

Wari polychromed hide pouch

Lot 108, Wari polychromed hide pouch, Middle Horizon, circa A.D. 800-1000, height of pouch 10 1/4 inches

Lot 108 is a rare Wari polychromed hide pouch from the Middle Horizon, circa A.D. 800-1000.  The height of the pouch is 10 1/4 inches.  The catalogue entry for this lot states that "this unique objec is one of the rare ceremonial pouches to survive with vibrant original pigment.  Such bags would have carried ritual objects and substances such as coca leaves."  It has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000.  It sold for $146,500.

Maya eccentric flint

Lot 141, Maya eccentric flint, Late Classic, circa A.D. 550-950, 10 1/4 inches high

Lot 141 is a marvelous and awesome Maya eccentric flint from the Late Classic Period, circa A.D. 550-950.  

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"The God K scepter, with its dramatic silhouette, is one of the most important accession accoutrements for royal Maya eremonies.  God K is a composite human figure with a serpent foot; the forked elements may refer to the long-lipped moster.  The stone itself was believed to be the incarnation of lightening.  Eccentric flints are placed in dedicatory caches in buildings and under stelae along with bloodletting imlements such as stingray spines and precious jade and shell." There are two closely related examples at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington D.C.  

The lot has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.  It sold for $134,500.

Olmec jade pendant

Lot 128, Olmec jade spoon pendant with a bold image of the Olmec Supernatural, Middle Preclassic, circa 900-600 B.C., 6 3/8 inches long

One of the finest works in the auction is Lot 128, a fine Olmec jade spoon pendant with a bold image of the Olmec Supernatural, the deity associated with rain. It is from the Middle Preclassic Period, circa 900-600 B.C.  It is 6 3/8 inches long.  It has an estimate of $300,000 to $400,000.  It sold for $314,500.

Chancay wood face post

Lot 167, Chancay wood face post, circa A.D. 1100-1300, 30 inches high

Lot 167 is a fine Chancay wood face post, circa A.D. 1100-1300.  It is 30 inches high and was once with the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York.  It has a modest estimate of $8,000 to $10,000.  It sold for $37,500.


See The City Review article on the Spring 2009 auction of African and Oceanic Art from the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2008 African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian art auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2008 African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbia art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on Spring 2008 African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on Spring 2007 African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Saul and Marsha Stanoff Collection of African, Oceanic, Pre-Columbian and Indian Art auction at Sotheby's May 17, 2007

See The City Review Article on the William Brill Collection of African Art at Sotheby's November 17, 2006

See The City Review article on the Fall 2006 African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2005 African & Oceanic art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2005 African & Oceanic Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2004 African & Oceanic Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2004 African & Oceanic Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2003 Tribal Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2003 Tribal Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2002 Tribal Art auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2002 Tribal 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 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

 



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