Rare and Historically-Important Barbed Spear, Hawaiian Islands
length 77 3/4in (197.5cm)
ihe laumeki, finely stone-carved from kauila (Alphitonia ponderosa; Colubrina oppostifolia) wood, of long tapering form with multi-barbed spear point; exquisite dark-brown patina with tool marks indicative of manufacture without the use of metal tools and wear indicative of significant age.
Collected on Captain James Cook's third and final voyage to the Pacific Ocean, 1779-80
Joseph Banks or Charles Greville, England
Earl of Warwick, England
Trustees of Warwick Castle Resettlement, Sotheby's, London 8th of December 1969, Lot 169
K.J. Hewitt, London
Lord McAlpine of West Green, England
Private Collection, Australia
The entry in the Warwick Castle auction reads "A Group of miscellaneous ethnographical Weapons and other items, including four Polynesian wood lances with smooth shafts and barbed tips..." Of these four spears, one is in the Mark and Carolyn Blackburn Collection, Honolulu, another is in a Private Collection, Honolulu and the third is in a Private Collection, Germany.
All four of these spears were obtained in Hawaii on Captain James Cook's third and final expedition to the Pacific Ocean in 1779-80, and entered the collection of the Earls of Warwick through Sir Joseph Banks and/or Charles Greville, who were known to have collections from Cook's voyage, in addition to those collected by Banks on Cook's first voyage. The Tahitian to'o collected on Cook's first voyage and depicted by John Frederick Miller in a drawing now in the British Library, was purchased at the Warwick Castle sale by K.J. Hewett and probably has the same history as the spears.
Joseph Banks (1743-1820), was "first among the supernumeraries on Cooks three voyages, and in the eyes of many in England first in the entire expedition. A rich man and Fellow of the Royal Society although only twenty-five years of age, he had shown his eagerness for the development of natural science at Oxford, and had been in Newfoundland and Labrador collecting plants and insects." (Edwards, Philip, The Journals of Captain Cook, Penguin Books, 1999, p.11) Banks was an avid trader at every opportunity collecting local specimens and artifacts, returning with them to England. Banks attempted to join Capt. Cook on his second voyage to the Pacific but difficulties arose. However, Banks continued to collect Polynesian artifacts as they returned home, and, being a well-known, ardent collector and of significant wealth, traders would usually contact him first upon arrival back to England.
Charles Greville (1749-1809), was also an avid collector of Polynesian Art, a politician and a close personal friend of Joseph Banks for many years and frequently exchanged artifacts with him.