Lot: 16Sale 100
Papua New Guinea, East Sepik Province, Yuat River, Biwat (Mundugumor)
|Provenance||Size||Starting price / estimated price|
|Reputedly Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg
Lempertz, Brussels, 24. October 2018, Lot 182 (and pictured on the cover)
|H: 42.5 inch||
plus 27 % commission, VAT, transport and insurance
wood, red pigment, shell, feathers, inscribed "Mundugumor Riv NG.", inventory no. "G216", collection label "Biwat Yuat Riv. N. G." - "Ex Coll. Museum f. Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg"
Although the owner informs us that this carving came from the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, the accession number, "G216", inscribed on the back does not appear to correspond to the museum's accession register. The museum does not hold an Oceanic collection today, but a number of items from the Bismarck Archipelago were transferred from its collection to the Museum für Völkerkunde, Hamburg, in the 1950s.
In Kelm's standard work on "Art from the Sepik" (Vol. III, Berlin 1968, Fig. 253), a comparable object from the holdings of the Museum für Völkerkunde Berlin is illustrated, which was collected during the Sepik expedition of 1912/13 in the village of "Mubuanum". Another specimen is found in an old photograph taken in 1924 in Arthur Speyer's flat in Berlin-Wilmersdorf, showing part of his Papua New Guinea collection (Schindlbeck, 2012, p. 109, fig. 52).
According to the collector of the piece pictured at Kelm, the carving is
a "crocodile charm". Carved crocodiles - spirit crocodiles - figure
prominently in clan and men's house rituals. Within them, the presence
of powerful spirits associated with water and land was activated. When
invoked, they help humans hunt and fight enemies.
According to Ernest Wauchope, who collected a group of similar carvings in the 1930s, small carvings of the type were described as "fish charms" and larger ones are said to have been used for dancing during initiation, "paraded" in front of initiates, and also placed at fishing traps.