Stone Ancestor Figure off an Ancient Stone Jar Mindanao Island Philippines

This beautifully carved small lime stone Ancestor Figure is from Mindanao Island in the Philippines. I bought this figure not knowing exactly where it was from but when I opened up the book on Philippines Art from The Musee Du Quai Branly Museum 2013 by Florentino Hornedo, I immediately knew what it was.  It is the finial of a Lime Stone Burial Jar from the 8-9th Century. See the book photos above and you can see how my little figure was originally part of the lid of jar.  This is an extremely rare and early example of an Ancestor Figure from the Philippines. The heart shaped head and simple and soft facial features give this little figure a peaceful look. The hands are held to the waist just below where it was part of the stone jar lid.

Many ancient limestone jars were discovered in burial caves in the Cotabatu region of southern Mindanao. Too small to hold a body, they were used for the secondary burial rites still widely practised in Southeast Asian communities. In these rites to honour the dead, the bones are exhumed and ritually cleaned, then laid to rest in superbly crafted vessels. The surfaces of the jars feature geometric and spiral patterns. The lids take human form,

REFERENCES

Afable, P., et alPhilippines: an Archipelago of Exchange, ACTES SUD/ Musee du Quai Branly, 2013.

Barados, D., Land of the Morning: Treasures of the Philippines, San Francisco Craft & Folk Museum, 1995.

Casal, G. et alThe People and Art of the Philippines, UCLA Museum of Cultural History, 1981.

Henkel, D., et alLand of the Morning: The Philippines and its People, Asian Civilisations Museum (Singapore), 2009.

Maxwell, R., Life, Death & Magic: 2000 Years of Southeast Asian Ancestral Art, National Gallery of Australia, 2010.

Provenance: Old UK Collection

The Todd Barlin Collection of Fine Asian Art & Oceanic Art

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Ancestor Figure Easter Island Polynesia

This cute little figure is a folk art figure made in Easter Island or Rapa Nui in early 2oth century.  It was made & used as a trade object for visitors stopping at Easter Island.  It has none of visual power of the old Easter Island Figures but it has some genuine charm. The figure standing male figure is not at all aggressive and it has a friendly & peaceful look.

According to Eric Kjellgren from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in his essay he writes;

“Easter Island, situated in the southeast Pacific over 1,000 miles from the other islands of Eastern Polynesia and some 1,400 miles west of South America, is one of the most remote inhabited places in the world. Between 600 and 800 A.D., a group of colonists from an unidentified location in Eastern Polynesia settled on Easter Island after sailing in a southeasterly direction for many weeks. The name Easter Island originated with the European explorer Jacob Roggeveen, who first saw the island on Easter Sunday, 1722. Today, the Easter Islanders call themselves and their homeland Rapa Nui. Rapa Nui society was organized following the classic Polynesian pattern: an aristocracy composed of ranked hereditary chiefs (ariki) with political authority over the commoners, who constituted the majority of the population.

The art of Easter Island is distinctively Polynesian, much of it centring on the creation of religious images. The most recognisable art forms from Easter Island are its colossal stone figures, or moai, images of ancestral chiefs whose supernatural power protected the community. Between roughly 1100 and 1650, Rapa Nui carvers created some 900 of these sculptures, nearly all of which are still in situ.

One type of wooden image, the naturalistic male figures known as moai tangata, may depict family ancestors. Although their imagery is conventionalised, they may be individual portraits. What appears to be hair on the top of their heads is actually a low-relief carving depicting fishlike creatures with human heads and long flowing beards, possibly representing shark-human spirits (nuihi). In a number of respects, the moai tangata bear a close formal resemblance to the larger stone moai. With their enlarged heads, frontal orientation, prominent stomachs, and arms that extend down the sides of their bodies, both types of image embody a classically Polynesian conception of the human form “.

Provenance: The Todd Barlin Collection of Polynesian Art & Artefacts

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Ancestor Figure Abelam People East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea

This finely sculptured Ancestor Figure is from the Abelam People in the Sepik Plains area  in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea

This beautiful carved and ochre painted ceremonial figure is both standing on stylised birds and surmounted by two stylised Horn-bill Birds which are important totemic animals.

The Abelam people of the Prince Alexander Mountains north of the Sepik River practice perhaps the longest and most spectacular initiation cycle of any New Guinea people. Beginning in childhood, each Abelam male must pass through eight separate initiation rites over the course of twenty to thirty years, before he is a fully initiated man. Each successive ritual requires both a physical ordeal and the viewing of increasingly elaborate displays of sacred objects in specially constructed chambers within the men’s ceremonial house. This process continues until the final rites, in which the initiate is shown the largest and most sacred of all displays—the brilliantly painted figures and other images portraying the powerful clan spirits called nggwalndu and ancestor figures. The largest nggwalndu images are used during this final ritual. Although nggwalndu figures are impressive works of sculpture, to the Abelam, their power lies in the bright poly-chrome ochre paint applied to their surfaces. For the Abelam, paint is a magical substance that endows the figures with supernatural power and beauty. This figure was collected in the 1950’s and would date from that period or a bit earlier.

This ancestor figure was in the home  of the late Margaret Olley 1923- 2011, she was a famous Australian Artist. I have been looking at her paintings to see if this Abelam figure is depicted in any of the the still life paintings she made of her home & studio.

Exhibited: Oceanic Arts Pacifica: Artworks from the Todd Barlin Collection at The Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre 2014 Sydney Australia

Published :Oceanic Arts Pacifica: Artworks from the Todd Barlin Collection The Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre 2014 Sydney Page 84

Provenance: The Margaret Olley Collection 1923 to 20211. Olley was one of the best known much loved Australian artists and great art patron and mentor to young artists.

The Todd Barlin Collection of New Guinea & Oceanic Art and Artifacts.

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Dance Wand Bird Malaita Island Solomon Islands

These two fine old and used Dance Wands are from the Kwara’ae people of North Malaita Island in the Solomon Islands.

Carved in the form of a stylised bird which is a clan totem.  When groups of ceremonial dancers use these Dance Wand Birds they are accompanied by the the music made from bamboo Pan Pipes. The dances re-enact the mythology of the voyages made by the original ancestor to arrive at North Malaita where the Kwara’ae people live today.

Birds motifs are often used in Solomon islands art,  frigate birds are very  important to the lives or Solomon Islanders.  When watching the sea they can see when frigate birds are hunting small bait fish by circling and diving in the water. Where there are small bait fish large Tuna follow. Tuna are one of the most important fish for food in the Solomon Islands.

Crispin Howarth at The National Gallery of Australia  in his superb publication & exhibition at the NGA VARILAKU: Pacific Islands Art from the Solomon Islands 2011 states

”  Large sculptures of bonito fish (Katsuwonus pelamis) hung from the rafters inside ceremonial canoe-houses along with carvings of sharks and people, and trophies of fish skeletons left over from feasts.
Bonito are scaleless, smooth-skinned fish copiously filled with red blood similar to that of people. So close are the connections between bonito and people that one part of the maraufu or malaohu initiation ceremonies included the flowing of blood from the bonito into the mouth of initiates.

The sacred nature of bonito accorded to bonito continues into the present day in some areas:

‘To the Melanesian’s of the South-east Solomon’s the catching of the bonito is one of the things for which he exists. To him it is the king of fish … these bonito fish are no ordinary fish, they are virgin born, and are under the care of special ghosts and sharks’.

Bonito are very difficult to catch and could only be caught when their protective deities wished them to be caught; their seasonal arrival signified the start of initiation events and the sharing of traditional knowledge. Sculptures of bonito and frigate birds were taken out of the canoe-house and attached to decorated platforms erected on the shore, facing out to sea, for ceremonial performances.
Bonito band into a school to prey on shoals of small bait-fish, working together to aggressively attack the shoal and drive it towards the surface, where fish hawks, terns and frigate birds and sharks enter the fray. This natural phenomenon attracts fishermen to the churning waters and the possibility of capturing bonito. These bonito-instigated events may last for hours or dissipate quickly, and are considered to be episodes of almost supernatural occurrence ”

Provenance The Todd Barlin Collection of Solomon Islands Art & Oceanic & Pacific Islands Art & Artifacts.

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Slave Hand-Blocks Geelvink Bay Area West Papua Irian Jaya Indonesia

This is a very rare type of 19th Century cultural object from the Geelvink Bay area on the Northwest Coast of West Papua Irian Jaya Indonesia. A Slaves Hand-Blocks from the 19th Century, made in the form of a Crocodile. There is an important early paper written about these objects by J.M. Hondius 1932  English Translation”  Why did the Noemfor Island People make their Slave Blocks in the form of Crocodiles “.  In the Publication Cultureel Indie 1932.  See in my photos about some examples of these Slave Blocks in the Dutch Museums. Later I will put a link to this interesting article about these rare objects that were used during the 19th Century.

Geelvink Bay & the Islands close by are famous for their Korwar Ancestor Figures Sculptures, these power small sculptures are only part of the creative artworks made be these people, Canoe Ornaments, Headrests & other utilitarian objects were often decorated with Korwar Figures & stylised Crocodile figures. ( see my superb Geelvink Bay Adze with Crocodile Head).

I only had part of the 1932 article about the Slaves Hand Blocks translated roughly from Dutch to English which I will add later to this listing.

The Crocodile is an important totemic spirit animal throughout much of the entire Island of New Guinea. The crocodile is part of the ancient creation mythology for many New Guinea tribes. Crocodiles play a central role in the art and culture of the Sepik River people. According to one of the Iatmul peoples Middle Sepik creation mythology, an ancestral crocodile was responsible for forming the land. In the beginning, the earth was covered by a primordial ocean, into whose depths the crocodile dived. Reaching the bottom, it brought up on its back a load of mud, which became an island when it surfaced. From that island, the land grew and hardened, but it continues to rest on the back of the ancestral crocodile, which occasionally moves, causing earthquakes.  Even today initiated Sepik Men have body scarification’s on their back, chest shoulders to resemble crocodiles.

Provenance: The John & Marcia Friede Collection of New Guinea Art also known as The Jolika Collection most of which is now in The De Young Fine Art Museum in San Francisco California .

The Todd Barlin Collection of Oceanic & New Guinea Arts & Arts of West Papua Indonesia

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Vajrapani Figure Tantric Buddhist Deity Mongolia 19th Century

This beautifully carved wood figure of Vajrapani Figure a tantric Buddhist Deity from Mongolia. Dated from the late 19th Century.

Vajrapani represents the power aspect of complete enlightenment, and known as Guhyapati (Tibetan: sang wa’i dag po), he is the ‘Lord of Secrets’ – the keeper of all the tantra’s of Vajrayana Buddhism. As a Bodhisattva, like Manjushri and Avalokiteshvara, he dwells on the 10th Bodhisattva level just prior to attaining complete buddhahood. In actuality all three were completely enlightened aeons ago and only appear, for the sake of training others, in the guise of Bodhisattva.

Vajrapani is common to all Schools of Tibetan Buddhism and has numerous forms and practices which span all sets of tantric classification and levels of complexity from a solitary aspect up to the large and complex mandalas with many deities.

Vajrapani, appears dark blue in colour with one face and two hands, appears in the form of a raksha (from classical Indian mythology) with three large staring eyes, a gaping mouth with bared canine teeth and orange beard, eyebrows and hair flowing upward like flame. The body is squat, large and fleshy. Adorned with a crown of five skulls with red pendants and gold earrings, bone necklace and bracelets, anklets, and a large green snake, he wears a long green scarf and a lower garment of tiger skin tied with a green sash. With the right leg bent and the left extended above a sun disc and multi-coloured lotus Vajrapani stands in the middle of the blazing fire of pristine awareness. P

Provenance: The Todd Barlin Collection Buddhist Art

Exhibited & Published: The Art of Compassion: Buddhist Art from The Todd Barlin Collection 2018  Page 30 Whole A4 Page

 

Kowar Ancestor Figure Geelvink Bay West Papua Irian Jaya Indonesia

This fine old Korwar Ancestor Figure is from the Geelvink Bay area on the NW Coast of West Papua Irian Jaya Indonesia. Dating from the late 19th Century to early 20th Century. Carved by a very skilled artist from a single piece of wood. The figures hair is made of cassowary bird feathers neatly put into small holes over the entire head.  This figure is unusual do to it having a child carried on his or her back.

The peoples of the coasts and islands of Cenderawasih Bay in northwest New Guinea formerly created Korwar, figures that portrayed recently deceased ancestors. Korwar images served as supernatural intermediaries, allowing the living to communicate with the dead, who remained actively involved in family and community affairs. When a family member died, his or her relatives summoned a carver, typically a religious specialist, who created a korwar and enticed the spirit of the deceased to enter it.

Although the sex of the figures is often difficult to determine, all were either male or female, depending on the gender of the deceased. Kept by the family, korwar were consulted during crises and prior to important undertakings, such as trading voyages, warfare, or fishing. When a Korwar‘s advice proved sound, it was shown great deference. However, if the advice a korwar provided proved wrong, the living at times vented their anger on the figure, hurling it against the walls or house posts or even destroying it.

Many Surrealists artists gained inspiration from Korwar Figures and Oceanic Art in general. The surrealist  movement in art and literature flourished in the early twentieth century it was aimed at expressing imaginative dreams and visions free from conscious rational control. Salvador Dali was an influential surrealist painter.

Provenance:  The Todd Barlin Collection of New Guinea and Oceanic Art.

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Mai Mask Middle Sepik River East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea

An old and danced Mai Mask from the Iatmul People.  The Iatmul live in the Middle Sepik River area of Papua New Guinea.

Highly decorated with Nassa and Cowrie Shells, Boars Tusks.  The shell work is typical of this type mask however the bulbous protrusions above the eyes are the only example I have seen.

Mai masks are carved and danced in pairs, portraying elder and younger supernatural siblings, either brothers or sisters.

Worn by young men and boys, the masks are attached to conical basketry costumes that cover the dancer’s head and upper body. Mai mask performances begin with the construction of a fenced compound. Within it, the men build a raised platform, with a backdrop depicting the mountains where, according to oral tradition, the masks originated, and a ramp that extends over the wall to the ground outside. As the performance begins, the Mai masked dancers burst out from behind the backdrop and stride down the ramp. Reaching the ground outside, they are joined by the women, who accompany them to the dancing ground, where a lengthy performance ensues before the dancers finally retire into the men’s ceremonial house.

The Todd Barlin Collection of Papua New Guinea Art and Artefacts.

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Bioma Figure Papuan Gulf area Gulf Province Papua New Guinea

This beautifully carved Bioma Figure is from Era River area in the Papuan Gulf  in Papua New Guinea.

In the past, the primary focus of religious and artistic life in this region was based on powerful spirits called Imunu.  Each clan had specific imunu Spirits that were associated with a specific location in the landscape, rivers, or sea, and was linked to the specific clan.

Papuan Gulf wood sculpture was primarily two-dimensional, consisting of board-like carvings, known as Gope or spirit boards and figures with designs in low relief, like this fine example.

Figures such as this one represented and served as a dwelling place for an individual imunu spirit.

Villages once had large communal men’s houses divided into cubicles, each allotted to a particular clan or sub-clan. Each cubicle contained a clan shrine, which housed the spirit boards, figures, human and animal skulls, and other sacred objects associated with the clan’s various imunu Spirits.

Susan Klomam from Christies auction writes ”  In the landmark exhibition curated by William Rubin at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1984 – ‘Primitivism’ in 20th Century Art. This exhibition inspired a generation of art lovers and collectors who might otherwise never have thought to consider African and Oceanic Art, which is amongst the greatest art ever created around the world and throughout the ages. When analysing Picasso’s work of the so-called Africanist period, there is an oversimplified explanation that he was drawn to the abstraction of African art, and that his interest was almost purely formalistic. However, we know that there was the supernatural component that drove him, and it is in that spirit that those artists of the last century until today who turned to African and Oceanic art reads like a constellation of modern of art history – e.g. Gauguin, Picasso, Matisse, Vlaminck, Giacometti, Modigliani, Kirchner, Brancusi, Leger, Klee, Ernst, Pollock, Moore, Epstein, Arman, Baselitz, Basquiat.

Provenance: The Todd Barlin Collection of Papua New Guinea Art and Oceanic Arts.

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War Shield Yuat River Lower Sepik River Area East Sepik Province Papuan New Guinea

This fine old War Shield  from the Mundugumor people in Yuat River area of Lower Sepik River in the East Sepik Province Papuan New Guinea. Collected in 1966 by the geologist Peter Austin who luckily had a helicopter  to get to remote area to do survey and collect artworks.

This is a very beautiful old shield, the carving designs on the front of the shield consists of six well rendered faces that represent a powerful spirit called Raram.  Old shields were important clan heirlooms and each shield had personal name of an ancestor.  The superb carving is further brought to life by the infill ochre painting in red, yellow , white & black ochre’s.  The edge of the shield is pierced on both sides from the top to the bottom that has fibre tassels attached as decoration. The back of the shield is highly concave and the handle is upraised and then secured by cane on the top of the handle & a wood bar at the bottom of the handle.

The shield would date from the 1930’s period based on the date of  collection in 1966.  The shield is in very good original condition and would be a prized addition to anyone who collects New Guinea Shields or the an Art Collector who can see what the early 20th Century Western Artists saw when collecting Oceanic and New Guinea Art.

In the photos above are from my 2014 exhibition and publication: Oceanic Arts Pacifica: Artworks from the Todd Barlin Collection at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre in Sydney Australia.

Provenance:  Collected in 1966 by the geologist Peter Austin.  Much of  Peter Austin collection was sold to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and published in a book  “New Guinea : Big Man Island”  by  ES Rogers, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto Canada 1970.   The collection remains in the Toronto Museum today.  His best objects were kept for 50 years until the collection was sold to me.

The Todd Barlin Collection of Papua New Guinea Oceanic Art

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To see many more rare items and the finest masterpieces, please make an appointment with us to visit the gallery.

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