Faith-Dorian & Martin Wright Collection - Part 2

Page 1



3 T +1 646-251-8528 280 Riverside Drive New York City, NY 10025 4

THE FAITH-DORIAN AND MARTIN WRIGHT COLLECTION, PART II We are pleased to present the second in a series of online exhibitions of masterpieces from the Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Collection. Most of the objects on offer are coming to the art market for the first time in over fifty years. Faith-Dorian Wright (1934–2016) was an accomplished artist in her own right. Born in New York City, she was introduced to African art in the 1950s by her art teachers Hale Woodruff and Peter Busa, both of whom were collectors. She was particularly attracted to its psychological elements – the strong emotions it seemed to represent – and its formal reductions, its simplicity: “One incorporates human experience, the other fundamental use of basic forms.” Wright’s own work was influenced by African artists’ use of organic materials, and she mixed acrylics with charcoal, chalk, ocher, and pigments from roots and leaves.

Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright

Martin Wright (1930–2018) was a successful lawyer and businessman. The collection the Wrights built together was largely formed in the 1960s and 1970s, the golden age of tribal art collecting in New York. Most of their early acquisitions came from New York dealer John J. Klejman, but they later worked with many of the important dealers of the time. Among the many superb works they owned was an iconic Hawaiian wooden bowl collected by eighteenth-century explorer Captain James Cook during his third and final voyage to Hawaii. The Wrights are considered pioneers in raising the profile and collecting importance of Oceanic art, and pieces from their collection form the core of multiple museum collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Israel Museum. While the Wrights’ primary collecting focus was Oceanic art, they acquired many important African and Native American pieces, as evidenced by objects in this catalog series. Dori and Daniel Rootenberg New York City, January 2021




19th century Wood, pigments 12 ½” h Provenance: - John J. Klejman, New York - Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Collection, New York Exhibited in Sets, Series & Ensembles, The Center for African Art, New York, July 17–October 27, 1985 Published in Sets, Series & Ensembles in African Art, George Nelson Preston, Susan Vogel, and Polly Nooter, The Center for African Art, New York, 1985, p. 42 Like a number of cultures on the coast of West Africa, the Sherbro of Sierra Leone organized their political and religious life around the Poro, a powerful men’s society that held sway in a wide range of social and political spheres. In past eras it was described by Europeans in similar terms to Freemasonry, credited with country-wide organization and political power to impose respect for its laws and decisions, even against the will of the chiefs, the traditional rulers. Poro practices have been modified in recent times to reflect the needs of contemporary life, but they remain a potent force in many country areas, where prohibitions are strictly observed. One of the main responsibilities of the Poro was the initiation of young boys. This initiation took place in seclusion at a forest camp, where they received instruction and moral education in adult values of co-operation, solidarity, and respect for the elders. The masks that appear in the first phases of these instruction rites are animal spirits, chaotic and unruly, representing childhood. Following and contrasting with this group are a male/female human pair that portray ideals of refined adulthood, communicating their roles in society and their interdependence in marriage. The entrancing helmet mask presented here represents the female half of that pair. Colored with a rich, reddish clay pigment, it has the whitened eyes and neck rings of a young, healthy woman of child-bearing age. Red signifies vitality and strength; white is the blessing of the ancestors. Beneath a dramatically domed forehead, the wide, white eye hollows invest the face with an impression of lantern-like luminescence, evoking a fascinating spiritual power.









Late 19th century Wood 20 3/8� h Provenance: - John J. Klejman, New York - Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Collection, New York, acquired from the above on January 12, 1971 Amongst the Bamana the six initiation societies called jow are of profound social significance. The final level of spiritual and intellectual education is completed within the kore society, which comprises eight classes or grades, each with its own emblem. One such emblem is the hyena (suruku), a symbol of greed and insatiableness that represents limited, prosaic human knowledge far removed from divine wisdom. Graced with a near-black patina, this beautiful hyena mask delivers an immediate visual impact with its beautifully elongated form. The lovely ridge of the nose descends from a forcefully projecting forehead, bending inwards and bisecting the shadowed concavity of the face, which is pierced by two rectangular eye holes. Planted firmly on the rectilinear base of its chin, the silhouette of the mask reaches dramatically upward, rising up through the narrow visage and the arch of the head to the tips of the fiercely pointed ears. This mask is of a style found in the dry lands of the eastern Beledougou, located in the region of Koulikoro in central Mali. The importance of African sculpture as crucial inspiration for Cubism cannot be overstated. Picasso's dealer, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, affirmed this, and in his discussion of Picasso's exploration of African sources in the years before and after the creation of his 1907 masterpiece Les Demoisells d'Avignon, William Rubin identifies the concave facial planes of Bamana masks as likely inspirational source: "A rather idiosyncratic form of concavity can be found in Studies for the Head of a Peasant Woman that Picasso executed in late summer 1908 during his stay on La Rue des Bois. The profile versions of the head in the lower center and right of the sheet‌recall the concavity of Bamana masks of a type probably visible then in France."






Clockwise from top left: Suruku mask (ex John J. Klejman; ex Jean & Dominique de Menil, Houston, Texas; Menil Foundation, Houston, Texas); Photograph of two men wearing suruku masks, pub. 1908, P.J.M. Henry, “Le culte des Esprits chez les Bambaras,” Anthropos Vol. 3 No. 4; Photograph of a man wearing a suruku mask, pub. 1910, Jos. Henry, L’âme d’un people africain: Les Bambara. Leur vie psychique, éthique, sociale, religieuse; Suruku mask (ex John J. Klejman; ex Mr. & Mrs. Klaus G. Perls, New York). Photos courtesy of the James J. Ross Archive of African Images. John J. Klejman sold a number of suruku masks in the 1960s that he likely obtained from the same source. The two masks pictured at left and the mask offered in these pages may well have all been carved by the same hand, though the concavity of the nose of the Menil Foundation mask is less pronounced than that of the other two. 17


FEMALE MASK Makonde, Mozambique

Late 19th century Wood, beeswax, pigment 8� h Provenance: - Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden - John J. Klejman, New York - Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Collection, New York In the traditions of the Makonde there are two types of masks: helmet masks, used primarily by groups in Mozambique, and face masks, common among the those in Tanzania. The design of the latter often reduced facial elements to a minimum and employed little decoration. Masks from the Lindi region typically have small, rectangular eyes and are colored with several layers of natural red pigments. Makonde masks often bear beeswax patterns representing traditional scarification. In general, female masks are characterized by a lip plug (called ndona in Mozambique and pelele in Tanzania) or an ear disk, while male masks are identified by a moustache or beard. This very early example is clearly a female mask, its features dominated by a large, thick lip plug worn in the upper lip above an open mouth. Below the rectangular eye holes is a small nose, represented by a shallow, pointed overhang. Flared ears protrude from the sides of the face. Beeswax has been applied to the center of the forehead in a branched chevron design that descends between the eyes, as well as in a long line across the top of the brow and in smaller, curved markings on the cheeks. This type of mask was active at the end of initiation ceremonies as the incarnation of ancestral spirits (midimu), and its appearance reminded initiates of their new position in the community and the rights and duties attendant to it.


Makonki woman, Mikindani, Tanganyika, C. Jincent, Dar-Es-Salaam, Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection (Library of Congress)








Kaian or Watam Peoples, Marangis Village, Lower Ramu River, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea Late 19th century Wood, natural pigments, grasses 44” h Provenance: - Collected by Hans Klink, Marangis Village, 1902 - Konsul Hernsheim, 1904 - Museum für Völkerkunde, Hamburg (E4045), 1904 - Marie-Ange Saulnier-Ciolkowska, Paris, ca 1951 - Madeleine Rousseau, Paris - John J. Klejman, New York - Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Collection, New York Exhibited in The Art of the Pacific Islands, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, July 1– October 14, 1979 Published in “Les artistes et l’art Océanien” and “L’Oceanie devant l’Occident,” Madeleine Rousseau, in L’art océanien. Sa presence. Collection Le musée vivant, Paris, 1951, pgs. 130-134, fig. 210; The Art of the Pacific Islands, Peter Gathercole, Adrienne L. Kaeppler, and Douglas Newton, Washington, DC, 1979, p. 295 (cat. no. 22.5 not illustrated) Carvings from the Sepik River region are among the most iconic works from Papua New Guinea. Seven hundred miles in length, the Sepik originates in the mountains of central New Guinea and meanders through the lowlands of the interior, finally flowing into the Pacific by way of a swampy delta on the northeast coast of the island. The tribes that live along its banks and tributaries have practiced wood carving for millennia, producing a wide variety of sculptural approaches and visual languages. Within the diversity of regional traditions some common concepts exist, including the creation of masks and the building of men’s houses. Both were the sole province of men who had been initiated into esoteric men’s societies. Masks, some of which were worn and others used as symbolic emblems, represented powerful spirits. Likewise, the numerous carvings in men’s houses depicted ancestors and nature spirits linked to local regions. Containing assemblages of ritual images from all the clans in the community, the men’s house was a virtual storehouse of carved images and teemed with faces and figures of striking artistic and spiritual power. Reminiscent of vastly larger house posts, which bear stacked tiers of mask images and figures carved in relief, this ceremonial post offers a showcase of Sepik mask design. It comprises four vertically arranged mask images, all carved in classic idioms of the region and painted with (cont.) 24


differing features. The rounded, moulded surfaces of the masks have been weathered to a beautiful softness. Painted designs in red, yellow, white and black pigments, long eroded but still present, heighten and empower the four faces. The post shows an enchanting, rhythmic waveform silhouette that is serrated at intervals by the beards of the masks. Numerous lugs at the masks’ ears and on the back of the post bear bindings and fragments of fiber, suggesting that the post was formerly lashed to a larger structure.



The Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Marangis Village Panel Essay by Virigina-Lee Webb, Ph.D., AAA A rich and complex artistic region, the north coast Murik Lakes and Ramu river areas of Papua New Guinea have a diverse and enduring sculptural tradition including figures, masks, elaborately decorated architecture and ocean trading vessels. “Contemporary elders believe that they are descendants of refugees (nagam) who fled the Middle Sepik River, resettled on the coast, and married into other groups of coastal refugees or indigenous lake peoples.”1 The Murik and Ramu peoples’ proximity to the ocean created superior, rigorous trading networks between the north coast and neighboring regions. The complexity of the locale-coastal, riverine and inland also contributed to a rich traditional style of architecture and ritual that is found in several areas of the island but especially in villages on the Sepik river and its many tributaries such as the Ramu River. The locus of traditional ceremonial life in this region are gender restricted ceremonial houses or haus tambaran (house of spirits) in which males undertake rites of passage from childhood to adulthood. Also called cult houses, these spectacular structures take different forms. In the villages of the coastal Murik Lakes region and the lower Ramu River villages the ceremonial houses have sloping roofs, many with decorated overhanging gables, paintings on sago palm spathe attached to the gable, elaborately carved interior and exterior painted posts and lintels. In the Ramu River and Murik Lakes the houses themselves are thought to be male entities and are connected to a male brag spirit.2 For initiation events, Murik cult houses become a “womb” in which brag spirits ‘devour’ initiates, who are then spat back into the community, effectively ‘reborn’ as adult men.3 “Only in the men’s cult houses (taab and kamasan at Murik Lakes)” are posts carved with images. On the lower Sepik, two posts may be carved but at Murik Lakes it is only the rear post.”4 “Another version of the Murik cult house, called kamasan, has a floor plan that is a long rectangle with one or two pointed ends…This type of house is also found at Watam Lagoon, the lower and middle Ramu…”5 The carved supports take several forms, some like the one in the Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery (MPNr.12) are several hundred centimeters high and were functional.6 Posts such as the one in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1999.104) made in neighboring Ramu villages – like the one illustrated here – have faces similar to brag masks. (cont.) ––––––––––––––––––––––––

1David Lipset. “Boars’ Tusks and Flying Foxes: Symbolism and Ritual of Office in the Murik Lakes.” In Nancy Lutkehaus,, editors. Sepik Heritage. North Carolina. The Wenner-Gren Foundation 1990:286. 2Crispin Howarth. “Brag Masks and Kandimbong Figures: Two Sculptural Arts of the Sepik-Ramu Delta.” In Kevin Conru, editor. Sepik Ramu Art. Brussels. Conru Editions 2019:52. My sincere thanks to Crispin Howarth, Curator Pacific Arts, National Gallery of Australia for sharing his knowledge about this area. 3Howarth 2019: 52. 4William Ruff 1984 and David Lipset 1997 in Barry Craig. Living Spirits with Fixed Abodes. Adelaide. Crawford House Publishing 2010:48. 5Craig 210:48. 6See Craig 2010:48 for MPNr 12.



There are spectacular masquerades in the Lower Ramu area which celebrate “Taikurum, the founding sprit of the village” and incorporate three carved panels such as this example.7 This triangular-shaped, towering assemblage of carved wood panels, painted and decorated with grasses and feathers is carried by a dancer. It “constitutes some sort of family tree, and forms a movable version of the main post of the most important ancestral spirit house, which is named after the same major spirit as the mask. When not used in the context of a festival, such panels may be displayed inside the spirit house.”8 An unprovenanced example which still retains its ephemeral decorations is in the Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden (RMV 5173-5).9 This panel carving was collected in Marangis Village in the Ramu area by Hans August Lorenz Klink, who participated in an expedition to German New Guinea in 1896. “In 1902, Klink and J. Schlenzig led an expedition and then established a new Ramu station that was later connected by a bridle track to the coast.”10 Eduard Hernsheim “originally a sailor from Hamburg, began trading in the Bismarcks possibly as early as 1870.”11 (cont.)

German senior colonial officer Hans August Lorenz Klink with an indigenous escort team on expedition, 1896, Berlin, Sammlung Archiv für Kunst und Geschichte, Germany –––––––––––––––––––––––– 7Dirk Smidt and Soroi Marepo Eoe. “A festival to honour the dead and revitalise society: Masks and prestige in a Gamei community (Lower Ramu, Papua New Guinea.)” In Barry Craig, Bernie Kernot and Christopher Anderson. Art and Performance in Oceania. Honolulu. University of Hawai’i Press 1999: 118-120 (figs. 13.5 –13.7). Thanks to Barry Craig for bringing this to my attention. 8Dirk Smidt and Soroi Marepo Eoe 1999:119. 9Dirk Smidt and Soroi Marepo Eoe 1999: 120 (fig. 13.7). 10Gavin Souter. New Guinea: The Last Unknown. New York. Taplinger Publishing Co. 1966:111-112. 11Robert Welsch. An American Anthropologist in New Guinea, vol.II. Honolulu. University of Hawai’i Press 1998: 80.



He and his brother founded Herhsheim & Co. and had traders throughout German New Guinea.12 Hernsheim obtained the post from Klink and sold it to the Museum für Völkerkunde Hamburg. Many members of the colonial companies collected artifacts that were later sold or given to ethnographic museums in major cities such as Hamburg, Bremen, and Berlin to name a few. The end of WWI ended Germany’s colonial possessions in the Pacific including the north eastern part of the island of New Guinea. During the end of the nineteenth century through the first decades of the twentieth century, Paris, like Germany developed ethnographic museums and many private galleries sold sculptures. One dealer/collector, Marie-Ange Saulnier Ciolkowska, “was born in 1898, she married in 1924 the painter and art critic Henri Ciolkowska who was an enthusiastic browser of antique shops.” She became part of the art scene on rue Jacob in pre-WWII Paris. She worked closely with Madeline Rousseau and “had good museum contacts-for instance she helped disperse the “duplicates” from the museum in Hamburg after it was bombed.” This panel retains the number E.4045 written in red pigments on the lower reverse. Based on object accession card files from the former MfV Hamburg, now the Museum am Rothenbaum Kulturen und Künste der Welt (MARKK), we know the collection history and the deaccessioning of this post because it was documented by the museum. As well, the museum’s work with Ciolkowska in the 1950s was confirmed. Based on the museum’s visual records the top “head” of the panel is missing, but the vestiges of the elaborate pigments and knots of the ephemeral grasses remain. Ciolkowska sent many works across the Atlantic to the New York art dealer J.J. Klejman. It is from Klejman that the Wrights purchased this sculpture. This early and finely carved post is a rare example of the masterful sculptural traditions of the Sepik Ramu artists.


–––––––––––––––––––––––– 12Ibid. 13Hermione Waterfield “Marie Ange Ciolkowska.” 29 November 2020. My thanks to Hermione Waterfield for sharing this complete essay with me. Published Christie’s Paris 3 December 2020: lot 23. 14Waterfield 2020. 15Thanks to Dr. Jeanette Kokott, Curator Oceania Collections, MARKK for finding the accession card E.4045 and suppling the information. 16Waterfield 2020.



PHALLOCRYPT, LONGKALONGKA Karajarri, Kimberley, Western Australia

Late 19th or early 20th century Pearl shell, hair, fiber, pigment 7 5/8” h Provenance: - John J. Klejman, New York - Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Collection, New York, acquired from the above on December 15, 1966 Teardrop-shaped ornaments made from the iridescent shell of the pearl oyster or, more rarely, other species were worn and exchanged across much of northern, central, and western Australia. The ornaments were manufactured (and generally engraved) in the Kimberley region on the northeast coast, from shells obtained in the Torres Strait, which separates Australia and New Guinea. Prized as ornaments and ceremonial objects, they were exchanged along a vast system of trade routes that extended as far as Australia’s southern coast, over a thousand miles away. Known by a variety of local names, including riji, jakuli, and longkalongka, the ornaments were predominantly worn by men as a cache sexe, suspended from a belt of human hair worn around the waist and, in some instances, as pendants. In some areas they were also worn by women. The meandering, rectilinear designs found in this example, engraved in the pearlescent surface and accented with red ochre, are common in these ornaments. Pearl shell was associated with water, the essence of life, especially in Australia’s arid interior. Its silvery luster embodied the flashing, shimmering qualities of water, rain, and lightning.


Bardi-Jawi men on Jayirri (‘Tyri’/Jackson Island) in King Sound, 1917, William Jackson, North West Scientific Expedition, courtesy WA Museum DA9312-162







RAINFOREST BATTLE SHIELD Northeastern Queensland, Australia

Mid-19th century Fig tree wood, natural pigments 34 5/8” h Provenance: - John J. Klejman, New York - Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Collection, New York, acquired from the above on March 30, 1973 The following are selected comments on the Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Rainforest shield by D’Lan Davidson, Australian indigenous art specialist The designs associated with Rainforest shields, baskets, and other related objects are some of the most unique amongst Indigenous Australian cultural practice. The use of bold colors amongst highly dramatized designs can only be aligned with the peoples of the northern Queensland rainforests. The present shield is exceptional, in age, form, and in particular the assured original design, which is of the quality of several shields held in the Macleay Museum, Sydney; the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford; and the many examples held in the Queensland Museum in Brisbane. This particular example evokes a sense of power which belies the shrouded lives of its makers who lived around the Cardwell Coast and the Atherton Tableland in North Queensland. The makers painted the designs of an individual warrior within a clan, generally done by two initiated men starting at opposite ends of the shield. It is likely that this example had two hands involved in its creation. The owner’s kinship would also be represented through the use of color – typically red-brown, black, yellow, and white (as evident with this shield). Carl Lumholtz, scientist and traveler, recorded during his North Queensland field work in 1899 that amongst the Rainforest peoples shields of this type were used to deflect large one-handed sword clubs, boomerangs, and spears during clan gatherings, where disputes between clans and individuals were settled. Shields and sword clubs were used in conjunction, and the scarring evident on the right-hand side of the offered shield is evidence of actual use in this form of intense tribal warfare. Amongst shield collectors and connoisseurs, this ‘battle-scarring’ is not only desired, it elevates the status of the shield as a true testament and honor to its original maker.







Arrernte, Northern Territory, Australia 19th century Wood, ochre 54� h Provenance: - Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Collection, New York Traditionally veiled in intense secrecy and revealed only to initiated men, churinga (or tjurunga) are representations or manifestations of living, ancestral or mythic beings and are connected in Australian Aboriginal cosmology to the eternal Dreamtime. Possessors of churinga had a powerfully personal bond with the objects and were sometimes buried with them. The present churinga, which comes from the Arrernte people in central Australia near Alice Springs, is an exceptionally large, early, and beautiful example of its type. Incised ridges texture and decorate its full face, neutral horizontal lines contrasting with asymmetrically deployed sections of angles and indistinct meanders. One end of the churinga features a twin chevron design with circle, while the opposite end bears joined zigzag bands and outlined shapes akin to stones. At the center of the churinga is an organic, multi-angled space that contains a host of crawling ridges. The overall impression is highly enigmatic. The surface of the piece shows a shadowy blend of very dark reddish and blackish browns, colors which were likely more distinct at an earlier period but which have dimmed and blurred together from age and patina.


Arrernte rain ceremony, Alice Springs, Central Australia, late 19th century. Museums Victoria collection








New Ireland, Papua New Guinea 19th century Wood, shell (Turbo petholatus opercula), natural pigments 41 ¾” h Provenance: - Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Collection, New York Spectacularly carved and ornately detailed, this wooden panel carving was created as part of New Ireland’s malagan tradition, a complex series of rites that mark nearly all important stages of life. Throughout their lifetimes, individuals seek to acquire rights to the use of specific malagan images and the rituals associated with them. Men, in particular, compete to obtain rights to the greatest number of malagan, possession of which confers status and prestige. The largest and most impressive carvings, such as this example, are displayed during the final memorial ceremony for the deceased, which often occurs months or years after death. The carvings essentially constitute a visual resume of the deceased’s lifetime achievements in obtaining malagan rights. Performance of the final funerary rituals frees the living from their obligations to the dead. Having served their purpose, malagan carvings are destroyed, allowed to rot, or sold to outsiders. The astonishing artistic skill displayed in the multilayered, overlapping forms of this panel carving leaves one in awe. The asymmetrical composition, combining a host of human and animal figures with tightly flowing and cage-like structures executed in meticulous openwork, is an absolute tour de force of woodworking. Detailed painting decorates and enhances every inch of the panel, raising the visual intensity to unbelievable heights. The powerful color scheme of red, white, and black, which unifies the panel so enchantingly from top to bottom, is broken only by a few bluish operculum shells set like precious stones in several of the figures’ eyes. The human and animal images in malagan carvings depict supernatural beings associated with specific clans, each a different manifestation of a single life-giving force. The theme of birds and snakes in struggle, a common subject of malagan sculpture and ceremonial dance, represents the idea that the sky (birds) and earth (snake) preserve the natural order by their constant opposition.







Extracts from a Report on the Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Malagan By Prof. Jean-Philippe Beaulieu A rare nineteenth-century New Ireland malagan bird frieze Examples of the quality of the Wright malagan, with its fine wooden interlaced carvings, have largely been collected pre-1900. These asymmetric friezes are known as Selagot by native New Irelanders. As detailed in the essay, we believe it was carved in the nineteenth century and that it belongs to the Vuvil malagan tradition. It is likely from Tabar Islands. We also note that other bird friezes, with different styles, have been found in other locations in northern New Ireland, such as Hamba, Kapsu, Lemusmus and Panamecho. We have identified seventy asymmetric bird frieze malagan. They typically range between 80 cm and 150 cm and feature a large bird in the center. Often it is a rooster, but it can also be a hornbill, a parrot, an owl, a composite stylized bird, or even a human head. They always have flamboyant feathered tails, and their heads are surrounded by large, very fine and complex carvings.

Example of a typical asymmetric bird frieze malagan featuring a rooster. Notice the large feather tail, the stylized rooster and the complex carving design surrounding its head. Phd Thesis D. Heintze, 1969. This malagan is part of the collection of the Braunschweig Städtisches Museum, number AV 1528.

The Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright malagan is an excellent example of an asymmetric bird frieze malagan. In this report, we discuss some of its particular characteristics and compare it with others within the corpus. Firstly, the head is probably a stylized owl head, with a long beak, holding a small quadruped. It has a human figure on the back, with two raised hands representing slain enemies. Slain enemies are offered as sacrifices during a cannibal feast. Above the figure we can identify a drongo bird, with a very long beak, merging into the (cont.) 56


geometric design. Drongo birds are often represented on malagan. The large central bird with stylized owl head is nested in an entanglement of branches that transforms into slant- eyed snakes, their heads pointing towards the beak. The owl image is used in malagan masks throughout New Ireland and represented with malagan figures: either on top of the head, or the malagan figure is standing on them. We know of two friezes with owls, but with a different design, coming from nearby Panamecho (Port Moresby PNGNMAG 81.46.2) and Lemusmus village (Dresden 7000), both North West New Ireland. Another snake is running along the neck of the carving, projecting his mouth on the leg of the central bird. We think that the broken rod on the face of the bird was likely another snake figure. The overall carving is surrounded by flying fish at the bottom, and another fish species at the top. The border is composed of a small triangular design, something we have also found on a number of pre-1900 malagan from Simberi Island (Tabar Archipelago). The first detailed field studies had been performed in central New Ireland in the years 1908– 1909 by Augustin Krämer and Edgard Walden from the German Naval Expedition. Krämer published in his 1925 book, Die Malangane von Tombara, that these types of asymmetric friezes were called Selagot. The presence of the large number of snakes suggest that it could potentially belong to a family of malagan carvings and suite of rituals called Vuvil. Vuvil was observed by Edgar Walden in Tabar Islands in 1909 and is still a living malagan tradition. This particular tradition has been recorded only on Tabar Islands and not on the mainland to the best of our knowledge. It has strong connection to sorcery. If an uninitiated man is in the presence of a Vuvil malagan during a ceremony, he will feel pain because of the power of the sorcery emanating from the malagan. The finest extant Selagot bird friezes were collected in the field between 1883–1894. Superb examples were published in 1895 by Meyer and Parkinson. We believe that the Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright malagan shares several iconographic details with the frieze collected by Richard Parkinson in 1894 on Simberi Island. This frieze has a bird with its beak on a small quadruped or human figure and complex wooden lacework, circled with small half crescents with pointing feather crests. This frieze is also very similar, but with a finer carving in my opinion, to the one in the legendary collection of Ernst Heinrich. Heinrich had gathered one of the finest collections of Bismarck Archipelago art in the 1950s. His collection was sold in 1967 at Parke-Bernet Galleries in New York. Paris, December 2020







Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka), British Columbia Late 18th or early 19th century Whalebone 21 5/8” h Provenance: - John J. Klejman, New York - Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Collection, New York, acquired from the above on May 29, 1968 This fine Nuu-chah-nulth whalebone hand club depicts a thunderbird image in profile at the base of its paddle-like blade, carved with a strongly curved beak and avian “headdress.” The surmounting bird head is elegantly designed with well-executed incising to indicate the beak and other features. A small lug is found on the side of the pommel, possibly for the attachment of a wrist cord. The blade of the club is enhanced by rows of incised circles on both sides. Engraved lines border the rows along their full extent, creating a band motif. Variations on this central band design are found on other thunderbird clubs, sometimes with double rows or alternating movements of the border lines, placing the present motifs within an identifiable canon. The tip of the blade is very bluntly rounded with a semicircular edge. Few clubs of this type exhibit the rich, dark brown color seen here, suggesting this example saw many years of use and exposure to smoky house interiors. It may also be possible that it spent some of its life buried in the ground, and was colored by elements in the soil. A similar example, reputedly belonging to Maquinna, chief of the Mowachaht Nuu-chah-nulth, and from the renowned dealer/collector George Terasaki, sold at Sotheby’s in November 2019 and was dated to circa 1802.









Mogemog Island, Ulithi Atoll, Caroline Islands, Micronesia 19th century Wood, stingray spines, coconut fiber, fiber cord, lime, pigment 16 5/8� h Provenance: - Collected in February 1910 during the Hamburger Sßdsee Expedition - Christie’s, New York, November 28, 1984, lot 89 - Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Collection, New York The Caroline Islands in Micronesia are home to some of the most accomplished long-distance voyagers in the Pacific. To contend with the formidable and ever-present threat of storms on the open ocean, canoe navigators employ weather magic. An indispensable element of this type of sorcery is the hos, a charm that frequently takes the form of a stylized human image whose "legs" are formed from the daggerlike spines of stingrays, which are the source of its supernatural power. Hos were formerly made and used widely throughout the Caroline Islands, from Yap in the west to Chuuk in the east. Once a navigator had completed his training, he acquired and consecrated a hos, the wood portion of which could be made by any carver with the necessary skills. Some are relatively naturalistic, but the figures are more frequently janiform and, in some cases, feature two fully modeled torsos depicted back to back. The two figures represent the unity of the gods Aluluei and Aluelap, observing all dangers and offering protection and guidance to voyagers. Once the charm was completed, the navigator carried it to a specific coconut tree, often a gift from the master navigator who had instructed him. Here he recited a chant asking the local deities to ensure good weather and safe passage to him in all his journeys. Coconut fiber, which has special significance and figures in certain Carolinian esoteric practices, is sometimes bound to the hos. Before beginning a voyage, the navigator grasps the hos and, sounding a shell trumpet to invoke the spirits, recites a chant to drive away any approaching storms. The charm is then carried aboard, where, in the past, it was often kept in a small spirit house set atop the booms connecting the hull to the outrigger. Coconuts and other offerings to Aluluei were sometimes placed beside the spirit house. If bad weather threatens, the navigator takes the charm and holds it into the wind, reciting incantations. Once the storm has passed, the hos is returned to the spirit house. Back on land, the potent charms are kept in the canoe house and cannot be stored in ordinary dwellings. (cont.) 68


The magnificent hos presented here is of janiform design, with opposed faces in a single head and a fused torso with two separate pairs of arms held akimbo. Its wood surface shows a grey, mottled tone with light speckles, darkened over the head, around the face and at the waist with pigment. The two faces feature calm, focused expressions with gently rounded foreheads, long noses, almond eyes, and small, closed mouths. Below the waist the figure flares into a trapezoidal form in which the stingray spines are affixed, pointing straight down. Strips of coconut fiber are attached to the figure at the wrist and shoulder, and the neck is wound with fiber cord. An additional charm formerly tied to the figure by a thin cord has been retained, consisting of two stingray spines bound together in a bulbous woven bundle.

Satawal outrigger canoe, French Navy Captain François-Edmond Pâris, 1841, Australian National Maritime Museum 70


An essay on the collection history of the Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright weather charm By Karel Weener, ethnographic researcher This weather charm was collected in February 1910 on Mogemog Island, Micronesia, by a member of the German scientific South Sea Expedition (1908-1910). The German South Sea Expedition of 1908-1910 was undertaken by the Hamburgische Wissenschaftliche Stiftung1 and travelled through what was German colonial territory at the time. Aware of the impact that Europeans were having on the societies in the region, the central aim of the expedition was: “to observe and record the final phases of an old, indigenous culture as long as it still had vitality and still retained as many remnants as possible of the old times, which were little changed.”2 After exploring Melanesia during its first year, the expedition subsequently turned its attention to Micronesia, under the direction of the marine physician, anthropologist, and ethnologist Augustin Friedrich Krämer.3 It yielded a wealth of information about Micronesia's people at the beginning of the 20th century. It took the participating scientist team decades to compile all the notes, letters, diaries, and photographs from this expedition into a book series entitled: Ergebnisse der Südsee-Expedition 1908-1910 (Results of the South Seas expedition 1908-1910). In these richly illustrated books, the focus is on the ethnographic findings of the expedition. After conducting extensive research on Palau and surrounding islands, the expedition set sail for Mogemog in 1910, an islet that is part of the Ulithi Atoll, located northeast of Palau. The expedition members were very much looking forward to visiting these islands, because unlike Palau, Ulithi was hardly visited by Europeans. This was with good reason: in 1731, Catholic missionaries had set foot on Ulithi but had been killed by its population two years later. As a result, Europeans preferred to steer clear of these islands from then on. Only in the 19th century was Ulithi sporadically visited by traders and whalers, but these visits were short and not always peaceful.4 On October 2, 1910, the Hamburger Südsee Expedition landed on Mogemog, where the expedition members stayed until October 17, 1910, researching, collecting, photographing, and drawing this little-known island and its population. Attention was paid to demography, kinship, music, jewelry, house construction, clothing, tattoos, tools, trade, food supply, (cont.) ––––––––––––––––––– 1


The Hamburg Scientific Foundation was established in 1907. It pursues the goal of promoting the sciences and their maintenance and dissemination in Hamburg. 2 See Berg, M. L. “'The Wandering Life among Unreliable Islanders': The Hamburg Südsee-Expedition in Micronesia.” The Journal of Pacific History, vol. 23, no. 1, 1988, pp. 95–101. JSTOR, Accessed 30 Nov. 2020. 31865-1941 4 See Damm 1938: 286


shipping, and religion. During their twoweek stay in Mogemog, this weather charm was collected, and a detailed drawing of it was made and subsequently included in the Ergebnisse der Südsee-Expedition.5 The extensive number of ethnographic objects collected during the expedition was included in the collection of the Museum of Ethnology in Hamburg upon its return.6 Until well into the 1960’s, this museum traded objects with dealers, collectors and museums. Some pieces, like this charm, found their way into the private domain. During the Second World War, much of the museum’s documentation was lost, including this weather charm's inventory card. Even without it, this special and very rare object is one of the bestdocumented weather charms in private possession. –––––––––––––––


See Damm 1938: 330 the weather charm was assigned collection number '2993 II'.



Drawing of the Wright weather charm made during the Hamburger Südsee Expedition, 1910

Chart of the Ulithi Islands, 1925. Mogemog is located at the northernmost point of the atoll.




Yup’ik, Kuskokwim River Region, Western Alaska 19th century Wood, bone 14 5/8” h Provenance: - Jeffrey Myers, New York - Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Collection, New York Among the Yup’ik of western Alaska, deceased members of the community were prepared for their journey to the afterlife by way of strictly observed rites. Often inhumed in a small box (the body compressed into a crouching jack-knife position), the deceased was laid to rest with all their earthly belongings, often in a set of new clothing sewn purposely for the burial. In some areas, the various tools, hunting equipment, weapons and ornaments would be strewn above the grave or lashed to a vertical post that served as a marker. Piles of stones sometimes covered a burial, or the deceased might be propped against a stake in the open when materials for an interment were particularly scarce. While these graves were usually devoid of imagery, burials in the region of the lower Kuskokwim River involved the erection of a prominent wooden panel above the coffin, to the face of which was attached a wooden figure with two or more arms, clothed and sometimes adorned with jewelry. Tools and other objects were often held in the figure’s hands. These grave images were carved by relatives of the deceased, and additional figures might be carved many years after the burial by a descendant and placed on the earth next to the grave panel. The grave figure presented here is a fine example of this extremely rare type, consisting of the main bust with simply rendered features, flat profile, and bone set in the eyes and mouth. Contrasted against the dark surface of the weathered wood, the intent, far-reaching gaze of the figure’s light eyes is dramatically emphasized. The torso post is carved with two rectangular slots on either side, where arms were once attached.



Memorial figures over graves at Nunachagamute, between the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers, Alaska

A group of graves at Kinagamute, lower Kuskokwim River, Alaska






SNOW KNIFE, PANA Eskimo, Alaska

19th century Walrus ivory, fiber 21 Ÿ� l Provenance: - Mathias Komor, New York - Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Collection, New York, acquired from the above on October 1, 1968 A snow knife, known as a pana in Iniktitut, is used in building igloos or creating a blind when hunting caribou. The knife is used to trim snow into blocks so that they can be stacked together on top of one another, forming a temporary shelter to protect those inside from the effects of the weather. When the ice is sufficiently built up, it insulates those inside and creates a warm environment. Pana are relatively simple to make and replace but are a crucial tool for nomadic family groups moving between permanent settlements or for hunters on extended journeys. When Europeans first began to arrive in Alaska, they collected many snow knives as the Arctic peoples enthusiastically traded them for more efficient metal saws and knives, which they still use today. This exceptionally elegant example features seven finely engraved caribou, with a zigzag cord for grip. The Wrights acquired this snow knife from Mathias Komor, a New York City art dealer, who started dealing in the 1930s and was one of the pioneering American dealers in ancient and tribal art.









Inupiat, Ugiuvak (King Island), Alaska 19th century Wood 9 ¼” h Provenance: - Jeffrey Myers, New York - Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Collection, New York This highly expressive Inupiat portrait mask, carved in plain wood, shows crescent moon eyes, a triangular nose, and a broadly curved smile in a gently convex face. Two large labrets attached near each corner of the bottom lip, one domed and the other rectangular, are the mask’s only additional details. The visible wood grain plays a subtly decorative role, rippling beautifully across the brow and chin. Designed with a prominent crescent theme throughout the face, this mask may carry associations with the moon. Masks similar to this example have been collected at Point Hope, an Inupiat community on the northwest coast of Alaska. Inupiat masks are typically less elaborate than those made by their culturally and ethnically related Yup’ik neighbors to the south-east, crafted in the plain style seen here and usually large enough to cover the face alone. Their relatively small size may be a result of more limited supplies of wood, given that Inupiat villages are found mostly north of the Arctic Circle, well above the tree line. Inupiat masks bear similarities in form to more ancient Old Bering Sea sculptural traditions – not surprisingly, as the Inupiat share both the same land and, probably, an intact lineage from their ancestral forebears. In Inuit culture, masks were used by a shaman (angakok), the only member of the community with sufficient power to control the spirits of nature. Masks enabled them to communicate with the spirits and understand their needs, and to give recommendations on how to appease them. Guidance from the angakok often emphasized a carefully observed code of behavior that would preserve a positive relationship with the spirits, upon whose goodwill the life of the community depended. 88

Inupiat man wearing a fur parka and labret. Nome, Alaska, circa 1915. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.






Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka), Pacific Northwest Coast Mid-19th century Wood, paint 11” l Provenance: - Lt. George T. Emmons, collected in situ at an unknown date, presumably between 1881– 1899 - Museum of the American Indian - Heye Foundation, New York (inv. no. 12/2461), acquired from the above in 1923 - Leon Buki, Buenos Aires & New York, presumably acquired from the above by exchange - Sotheby Parke-Bernet, January 31, 1970, lot 51, consigned by the above - Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Collection, New York This rare and beautiful ceremonial rattle shows typically streamlined Nootka design elements, with swelling sides and zoomorphic features. While many rattles of this type depict grouse or other birds, this rattle shows an uncommon combination of bird-like body and uplifted wolf head with large eyes and flared nostrils. It is carved from two pieces of wood that are bound together on the underside with fiber, leaving a lengthwise split in the handle. The chiseled surface texture, conspiring with the natural processes of age and patination, produces an attractive pattern of subtle lights and darks that recall the shifting reflections of light through water. In the Pacific Northwest, rattles were among the most important ritual objects of shamans. The unusual hybrid form of this example, combining both avian and mammalian characteristics, suggests a theme of transformation. While the Nootka primarily focused on pure, simple forms such as this, they sometimes crafted painted rattles embellished with large faces and animal motifs, a style preferred by other tribes in the region, such as the Tlingit, Tsimshian, and Haida. This rattle was collected by Lt. George T. Emmons (1852–1945), an ethnographic photographer and naval officer stationed on the U.S.S. Pinta in Alaska in the 1880s and 1890s. Through his duties, Emmons contacted and developed an interest in the Native cultures of the region, recording information and collecting artifacts while on leaves. He collected over 11,000 objects and sold his first collection to the American Museum of Natural History in 1888. Following his retirement, Emmons continued collecting Alaskan artifacts and sold them to collectors including George Heye and the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation.









Punuk, St. Lawrence Island, Alaska Ca. 500–1300 C.E. Walrus ivory 8� l Provenance: - John J. Klejman, New York - Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Collection, New York, acquired from the above on December 20, 1971 Rounded on both ends and drilled with three large holes through both of its indented sides, this gently curved trace guide was used to organize and separate the rawhide traces of a dog sled. The slightly convex top surface is decorated with a beautiful geometric composition showing looping and crossing bands framing rows of triangular motifs that point symmetrically outward from the center line. A lovely blend of mottled golds and browns clouds the surface of the aged ivory, which is smoothed to a gloss. Walrus ivory was a precious resource for the peoples of the Arctic, and was used in the crafting of objects concerning all aspects of life, from the recreational to the ceremonial. Decoration of ivory pieces could be very minimal, but some showcase the skill of Arctic carvers in sharp, linear incised designs. The geometric engraving seen here is strong and boldly executed in contrast to the rather delicate designs found on some other Arctic objects, making it a striking example of its kind.

Levon West, Eskimos on Dog Sled in Storm, etching and drypoint on paper, 1931. The Clark Art Institute.








SPIRIT BOARD, GOPE Papuan Gulf, Papua New Guinea

Late 19th century Wood, natural pigments 51 3/8� h Provenance: - Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Collection, New York In the Papuan Gulf region, the primary focus of traditional religious and artistic life was on powerful spirits known as imunu. Each imunu typically was associated with a specific location in the landscape, rivers, or sea, and was linked to the specific clan whose territory encompassed that location. The peoples of the region represented and revered the imunu through the creation of spirit boards (gope), two-dimensional carvings featuring figures and designs carved in low relief and colored with ochre and pigment. Each served as a dwelling place for an individual imunu, whose image appears on it. Villages formerly had huge, communal, peak-roofed men's houses called ravi, where ceremonial clan objects were kept safe and hidden from the uninitiated. The men’s house was divided into cubicles allotted to a particular clan or sub-clan, each of which contained a clan shrine, which housed gope, figures, skull racks, human and animal skulls, and other sacred objects associated with the clan's various imunu. Gope helped to guard their clanspeople from harm and aided them in headhunting and warfare, offering concealment and weakening enemies in advance of a raid. This fine gope shows a typically slim, ovular silhouette, pinched toward the top to define a head with smiling face and wide eyes. The designs of the face form the origin point of a cascade of sinuous, interconnected hook motifs that flow and bend and coil across the surface of the board. Highlighted on the dark wood with white ochre, the floating, ghostly designs form a mesmerizing dance that balances symmetry with organic variation and vividly evokes the spiritual power of the imunu within.


A gathering inside a Kau longhouse, Papua New Guinea, Frank Hurley, 1922, Australian Museum collection








Haida, British Columbia 19th century Horn 17 1/8� h Provenance: - Arthur Baessler - Linden Museum, Stuttgart (inv. num. 60342) - Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Collection, New York Large ladles of this kind have been crafted for millennia in the territory that is now British Columbia. Used to transfer food from serving containers to dishes, these ladles were either plain, elegant forms or more ornate works with handles and bowls embellished with ancestral figures and crest designs. Antler spoons with crest figure handles from three thousand years ago have been excavated in the region, as well as cores for spoon handles of an even earlier date. There are no prehistoric examples of horn spoons from Haida sites, but it is likely that they acquired such spoons from mainland groups as part of the intertribal potlatch system. Individual horn spoons were the most elaborately decorated items at a feast. The bowl of the spoon was made from cream-colored mountain sheep horn, steamed and bent in a mould. The curved handles were made from black mountain goat horn that provided a field for artistic display second only to that of totem poles. In fact, many spoon handles were faithful replicas of the poles in front of their owners' houses. Some of the most elaborate spoon handles have a dozen or more diminutive figures carved into a handle that rarely exceeds six inches in length. This handsome ladle features a plain bowl, broad neck and gracefully hooked handle. The carving of the handle shows a prominent central face with large eyes, strong jaw and wide nose. One of the earliest European owners of this ladle was ethnologist and collector Arthur Baessler, who donated it to the Linden Museum around the beginning of the twentieth century. Baessler was born in Glauchau, Saxony in 1857. After finishing school, he studied natural sciences, geography and anthropology, and in time undertook a number of international expeditions. Between 1887 and 1889 Baessler travelled to New Guinea, followed by a journey to Australia and research trips to New Zealand, Polynesia and Peru. After his return to Germany, Baessler transferred his collection to ethnological and anthropological museums in Berlin, Dresden and Stuttgart. He died in Eberswalde in 1907. 110

Arthur Baessler






Haida or Tlingit, Pacific Northwest Coast 19th century Wood, paint 12 ¾” h Provenance: - Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Collection, New York Rich with symbolic content, raven rattles are a distinct type of chiefly instrument, shaken rhythmically to accompany ritual movements. Their complex compositions take the form of the body of a raven, the trickster-performer creature who flies at the heart of many regional origin myths. On his back is a man, legs akimbo, his tongue held in the beak of a crested bird head formed by the tail feathers of the larger raven. In some cases it is a frog with whom the man shares this contact, interposed between the two participants. The belly of the raven reveals a large face with a hooked nose or beak. The imagery of the joined tongue is one of potent shamanic content, and can be seen in a range of objects from argillite pipes to totem poles, depicting intimate spiritual contact or the transfer of esoteric knowledge and power. Often associated with healing ceremonies, such rattles are held with the bird's beak pointing downwards when used. The pebbles inside the body of the bird heighten the sensorial experience, producing a gentle rattling sound in tandem with the movement of the piece. Raven is a highly significant and mercurial figure in the mythology of the Northwest, and the numerous, interconnected images of the rattle may be an expression of his shape-changing power. One of the many stories regarding Raven involves his bringing light into the world, symbolized in the rattle by the small disk held in the mouth of the raven. It has been suggested that the raven/human imagery of these rattles references Raven’s own self-creation, being born through magical trickery as the grandson of Nass-shaki-yeil, keeper of the world’s light. Nassshaki-yeil was often depicted as a huge bird with a completely recurved beak, an image which the hook-nosed face of the rattle closely echoes. The fine rattle presented here shows sharply executed carving, showcased in the impressive openwork of the reclining figure and frog. A strong palette of earthy red, black, and rich bluegreen pervades the composition and defines the formline surface designs, mixed with the warm brown of exposed wood at points of wear or erosion. Constructed of two separate halves, the rattle is split lengthwise at the meridian and bound together with cord.










Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.