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Collecté par Samuel MacFarlane, London Missionary Society, circa 1870
Edward Gerrard, Londres [étiquette avec écriture manuscrite à l'intérieur ‘Gerrard 1887.
Sud (?) New Guinea’]
Staatlichen Museum für Völkerkunde, Dresde, catalogue n.6397, acquis auprès de ce dernier le 3 décembre1886
Everett Rassiga (1922-2003), acquis auprès de ce dernier par échange, 1974
Walter Randel, New York
Marcia et John Friede, New York, acquis auprès de ce dernier
Collection Jolika, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, de Young Museum,
Don de Marcia et John Friede, inv. no. 2001.62.8
Meyer, A. B. (Adolf Bernhard), (1840-1911), Masken von Neu Guinea und dem Bismarck Archipel / Unterstutzung der Generaldirection der Koniglichen Sammlungenfur Kunst und Wissenschaft zu Dresden, Stengel & Markert, 1889, Bd. VII,Taf. II and V, pp. 3, 4 and 6.
Fraser, Douglas,Torres Strait Sculpture: A Study in Oceanic Primitive Art, Ph.D dissertation, Columbia University, 1959, plate 37
William Rubin, ed., “Primitivism” in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern, New York, 1984, vol. 1, p. 108
Friede, J.A. et al (ed.), New Guinea Art: Masterpieces from the Jolika Collection of Marcia and John Friede, San Francisco, 2005, Volume 1, no. 498 and Volume 2, p. 169.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, ‘Primitivism’ in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern, 27 Septembre 1984 - 15 Janvier 15 1985
Autres lieux d'exposition:
The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan, 26 Février - 19 Mai, 1985
Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas, 23 Juin - 1er Septembre, 1985
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, deYoung Museum, San Francisco, 2001–à aujourd'hui
Post Lot Text
Amongst the most rare and spectacular works of art known across time and cultures are the masks created by the artists of the Torres Strait Islanders. The Jolika Mask is the most powerful and fully realized of this extremely exclusive corpus. It is a tour de force with its monumental size, hauntingly pale eyes cast against a somber patina, which carry the viewer to a liminal space between terra firma and the mystical realm. In the remote islands which dot the strait bridging Australia and New Guinea, masks were the primary art form. Monumental and heroic, they are the core visual language of the Torres Islanders. The masks function was related to many aspects of Torres Strait life, from fertility and agrarian ceremonies to initiation and funerary rites. A mythological hero or a clan spirit, the mask fulfilled several roles all in an effort to create equilibrium of the group through visual connections to the supernatural. The searing impression of this mask is unforgettable, and for this reason it was one of only three masks from Oceania selected by William Rubin in his landmark exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York for his ‘Primitivism’ exhibition of 1984.
Amongst the most rare and spectacular works of art known are the masks created by the artists of the Torres Strait Islanders. Recognized for a proliferation of artistic production, nevertheless, the works are extremely rare by virtue of the small population of these Islands. The peoples numbered less than 4,000 before sustained European contact in the nineteenth century, and even smaller for a period of time afterwards. While there is not well-documented archaeological evidence, it is believed that the ancestors of the current Torres Islanders have inhabited the lands for about 2,000 years. The earliest written recording of a mask from these Islands, and thereby a masking tradition, was the mention of a turtleshell mask. It was noted in 1606, by the Spanish explorer Don Diego de Prado y Tovar (Hilder, 1980: 74) on the voyage commanded by Luís Vaz de Torres, from whom the region derives its current name. Much of what we know today about traditional Torres Strait art and culture comes from the extensive and ground-breaking research of Alfred Court Haddon, which took place in the 1880’s and was published over six volumes from 1902 to 1935. Beliefs and religion center around mythical heroes and their associated totemic cults. The masks are believed represent these mythical heroes who appear during important human events and rites of passage.
Notes on provenance
The provenance of this mask dates to the most significant early missionary settlement in the Torres Strait Islands, that led by Reverend Samuel McFarlane (1837-1911) of the London Missionary Society (Fig. 1). MacFarlane was born in Scotland, and became a missionary in 1858. His first assignment was in the Loyalty Islands, today New Caledonia, and he reached Lifu on 30 October 1859. After he left Lifu, he returned to London long enough to write The Story of the Lifu Mission (London, 1873), and have his plans for mission work in New Guinea approved by the society.
He returned to New Guinea via the Torres Islands, and arrived at Erub (Darney Island) on 1 July 1871. The Torres Islanders refer to this as ‘The Coming of the Light’, and all Island communities since this time now celebrate the occasion annually on 1 July. While in the South Pacific, over the following years he made twentythree voyages, visited over eighty villages, established twelve mission stations, learned six languages and published translations in two of them. In 1877 he moved his headquarters to Murray Island, in the Torres Strait.
MacFarlane returned to England in June 1886 and published Among The Cannibals of New Guinea (London, 1888) (Gibbney, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974.) McFarlane did not document in any particular detail accounts of collecting works of art, unfortunately. We know from records at the British Museum that he donated 224 objects and artifacts—all from Oceania—of which 191 are from New Guinea and only 37 from the Torres Strait Islands. The British Museum also has some correspondence archived: ‘Letter S McFarlane, Somerset, Queensland/ Mr Sharpe, 15 Sept 1876. McFarlane writes that he is dispatching to the BM a consignment of natural history, stone implements, carved spears and arrows etc all from New Guinea’. He refers to an earlier consignment, unspecified, and states that he has not yet taken up residence on the coast of New Guinea. Also: list of ‘Ethnological specimens collected between Yule Island and China Straits. New Guinea’. Annotated 24 June 1884, +2428 et seq..Also: List of objects presented to the Christy Collection by A W Franks [a trustee making acquisitions on behalf of the Christy Collection]. June 26 1885. Bought of E Gerrard junr. for Rev S McFarlane £30’. Annotated +2489-2501. Also: List of specimens collected in New Guinea by Rev. S. McFarlane bought of Edward Gerrard Junr. 23 Nov 1886.’ It is in this last that the present masks are noted (Fig. 2,3,4, 5).
Edward Gerrard & sons
Given the correspondence at the British Museum and as corroborated by the archives at the Museum für Völkerkunde Dresden, Edward Gerrard, Jr. (1832-1927) was the intermediary for sales of some Torres Island material collected by McFarlane. Edward Gerrard, Senior (1810-1910) was employed from 1836 by the Zoological Society of London as assistant to George Robert Waterhouse. In 1850, he started his own family business specialized in taxidermy and osteology. Edward Gerrard, Junior continued strong links with the Zoological Society, and their business became a nexus of trade, where they dealt in related material and as agents of natural history specimens and artifacts. Their business eventually took on an arm as auctioneers, but this did not happen until the 1920’s, well after the dispersion of the McFarlane material (see P.A. Morris, Edward Gerrard and Sons: A Taxidermy Memoir, 2004).
Museum für völkerkunde dreseden
The museum in Dresden acquired a cache of Torres Straits masks under the auspices of Adolf Bernhard Meyer (1840 – 1911). He was a German anthropologist, ornithologist, entomologist, and herpetologist and director of the Anthropological and Ethnographic Museum in Dresden from 1874 until his retirement in 1905. While this mask was deaccessioned from the museum, Dresden catalogue numbers of the additional turtleshell masks from Maribuag (Jervis) Island still or formerly in their collection are: 6346, 6347, 6348, 6349, 6361, 6362, 6363, 6364, 6365, 6367, 6375, 6376, 6377; and the wooden masks: 6360, 6398 (published adjacent to Nr.
6397 in Meyer). According to Meyer, they were each collected by McFarlane in a men’s house, though it is unclear if they are from one or several such houses (in Masken von Neu Guinea und dem Bismarck Archipel / Unterstutzung der Generaldirection der Koniglichen Sammlungen fur Kunst und Wissenschaft zu Dresden, 1889, p. 5).
SAIBAI ISLAND MASK
This mask from the Jolika Collection is the best and most remarkable of an extremely rare corpus of Torres Strait art. The powerful proportions— almost three times the size of the human face, the special trapezoidal shape and profundity of this mask, together with the haunting expression of the shell eyes glowing against the somber wood make this one of the most notable amongst all masks from the South Seas.
Wooden masks from the Torres Islands, as compared to perhaps the more well-known turtleshell masks, are all associated with the western island of Saibai. The most likely reasons are the Island and its peoples proximity to New Guinea, at the mouth of the Fly River, and it sculptural traditions in wood, and that turtles are less plentiful in these muddy Papuan waters. Douglas Fraser in his in-depth analysis of art from the Torres Strait places the Jolika mask as type ‘2E’, a very small corpus with two other distinguished examples in the collection of the Australia Museum, Sydney, inventory number E7097 (see Moore, 1989, p. 28, figure 18) (fig 9) and another in the Barbier-Mueller Collection, inventory number 4241 (see Peltier and Morin, eds, 2006, p. 228, cat. no. 118) (fig 10).
They each have a scooped-shape when viewed in profile, hae surface decoration and shell eyes and distinctive use of hair framing the forehead. This group is further distinguished by the absence of apertures for viewing, meaning they could not have been worn over the front of the face, but perhaps at the top of the head. The Jolika example, as Friede states, based on Fraser’s and A. B. Meyer’s notes, has is a crescent appendage at the back which could further suggest not only that is was worn on top of the head, but perhaps had a dual purpose to be hung as a sort of architectural ornament (Friede, ed., Vol II, 2007, p. 169; Fraser, op. cit.; Meyer 1889, p. 6).
This type of human face mask is called mawa, which means face or mask, and was used in the ceremony of the same name—mawa. Held around September, it celebrated the ripening and harvesting of the ubar fruit, a variety of wild plum, as well as yams, cassava and taro. The masked dancer also wore a costume of coconut leaves, and the ceremonies were held not only to mark the harvest, but to ensure the soil’s fertility for the future.