An ivory, shell and wood sceptre, kahili handle, ki, Hawaiian Islands
Lot 2028Y
A very early, classic royal sceptre, kahili handle, ki, Hawaiian Islands
US$ 10,000 - 15,000
£6,000 - 8,900
Lot Details
A very early, classic royal sceptre, kahili handle, ki, Hawaiian Islands
length 8 7/8ins
An apparently very early example, of the type referred to as "fly fraps" in Cook's journals, and significantly smaller than later 19th century kahilis. Early kahilis are rare, with this example appearing to be an extremely close match to the Leningrad Cook specimen #505-2 pictured in Kaeppler's "Cook Voyage Artifacts in Leningrad, Berne and Florence Museums" (page 11, Figure 22). Note the small attachment holes visible in the wooden protruding pegs of both the Cook and current auction examples.

Alan Wood Collection, a descendent of Commander Sir James Pearl (collected Prior to 1839).
From the provenance reference entry in the original auction catalogue: "The following collection includes material collected during a single voyage to Alaska and the North-West Coast of America, also calling at the Society Islands, Hawaii and California. There is no documented history, but the close similarity of some of the pieces with material collected by Captain George Vancouver on the Discovery, 1790-95, suggests a late 18th century/early 19th century." In 1836, Commander Pearl was made a Knight of the Royal Guelphic Order of Hanover, and two years later in 1838, received the honor of Knight Bachelor from Queen Victoria. Commander Sir James Pearl died suddenly at his estate at Mount Pearl, Newfoundland on January 13, 1840, at the age of fifty years.

For a discussion of kahilis, see Buck, pages 578-580: "The feathered portion (hulumanu) was usually made of feathers of the tropic bird, 'o'o, frigate bird, owl, 'i'iwi, or barnyard fowl. Several feathers were tied together with olana fiber to form bunches which, in turn, were tied to a coconut-leaf midrib. The poles were usually made out of a kauila wood spear, but more elaborate ones were made by stringing discs of tortoise shell, bone, or ivory on a slender core of kauila wood or whalebone.

Sotheby's, London, June 27, 1983, Lot 149.
Leo Fortess Collection, Hawaii

cf. Forbes, Hawaiian National Bibliography, numbers 27 and 372 for references to Hawaiian "fly flap" kahilis offered for sale at late 18th and early 19th century London auctions.

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