Dedicated slot at Summers Place
Tribal material was given its first stand-alone section at garden sculpture and statuary specialist sales at Summers Place (25% buyer’s premium) in the June 13-14 auction at Billingshurst.
“Having realised these items are popular with our buyers, we thought we’d make a bit more of a feature of tribal art,” said auctioneer Rupert van der Werff.
The 107 lots covered most of the globe and a wide price range. For example, from South Dakota, a pair of c.1870 Sioux beaded and buckskin moccasins took £1400.
Top prices, however, were skulls carved and decorated by the headhunter Dayak people of Borneo.
The example above, 13in (33cm) tall on its wooden stand, doubled top hopes at £6200. Another, catalogued as an ancestor skull – as opposed to that of an unfortunate enemy – more elaborately decorated with feathers, seeds and a nosepiece, went at the top estimate of £3000.
Story behind the mask
The vendor of the carved mask, above, offered at Wright Marshall (20% buyer’s premium) at Knutsford on July 4, told auctioneer Niall Williams that it had been brought back from the Congo by a family member early last century.
As more than 200 different ethnic groups inhabit the 900,000 square miles of the Congo, Williams consulted a dealer with specialist knowledge, hoping for a narrower field of origin.
“Normally such a mask would be painted white but this had only a few traces of white,” said Williams. “The advice was to give it a low estimate and if it was ‘right’ it would do well, if not it wouldn’t.”
Estimated at £60-80 and illustrated in the online catalogue, it attracted some 40 ‘watchers’ but no actual bids until sale day when two rivals, one online, one on the phone, went into action. No doubt each was hugely disappointed to realise they shared a similar opinion of the mask’s true worth. It finally sold to the online bidder via thesaleroom.com at £9600.
South Seas spearheads Stride sale
A single-owner collection of South Seas spears demolished estimates at Stride & Son (20% buyer’s premium) in Chichester on June 30.
One from the Austral Islands (tip shown above), a slender 8ft 4in (2.54m) long example, was catalogued as 18th century and featured a carved and and engraved double collar. Estimated at £400-600, it sold at £3200.
Another, possibly from Vanuatu, of dark wood with a carved serrated edge and decorated with punched zig-zags, measured 9ft 10in (3m) long. This example carried the caveat ‘bindings a/f’ but sold at a seven-times-estimate £1400.
On the face of it, both spears seemed extremely long to be used as practical weapons but the coat of arms of Vanuatu features a Melanesian warrior standing holding a spear considerably taller than himself.