A Superb old Vanuatu Janus Head Spear Finial Malekula Island Vanuatu19th Century
A Superb old Vanuatu Janus Head Spear Finial Malekula Island Vanuatu. Dating from the mid 19th Century
This fine old Spear Finial Ornament is from Malekula Island in Vanuatu. Collected in the late 19th Century which would make the Spear Ornament from the mid-19th Century or earlier. The actual full-length spear would have been 3 meters long and near the top of the spear is where this ornament would be placed. Often the top of the head had a Sting Ray spine attached which gave it a sharp serrated point. The Janus Head represents ancestors who would give supernatural power to the spear and warrior.
The faces are quite cubist looking with wide flaring nostrils, the side view shows both faces in profile and a concentric diamond design at the top of the sides of the head. These old ornaments were kept as family heirlooms when the spears were broken and no longer used. I have always thought that these Malekula Island Spear Finials look like Kanak Masks from New Caledonia which is not that far & there would have been trading & contact between the Islands of Vanuatu & New Caledonia.
Provenance: Jane Catharine Tost (c.1817-1889), and Ada Jane Rohu (1848-1928), taxidermists and shopkeepers, were mother and daughter. Tost & Rohu were two women taxidermists selling taxidermy native animals and native curios and artifacts from the Pacific Islands,
Jane Catherine Tost, the daughter of a prominent English family of naturalists and taxidermists, was employed at the British Museum preparing specimens for some 15 years. Tost’s considerable expertise was acquired at the British Museum in the 1840’s preparing specimens for John Gould. Tost belonged to a prominent English family of taxidermists – she and her two brothers were trained by their parents Herbert and Catherine Ward, who had bred and stuffed birds for gentleman collectors in the early 1800s. Brothers Edwin Henry (1812-1878) and Frederick worked for Gould and Audubon and Tost’s nephew Rowland Ward later became internationally renowned for his big game taxidermy dioramas and “Wardian” animal furniture.
Provenance: The Todd Barlin Collection of New Guinea Oceanic Art
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