Untitled (Crucifixion Study) bears artist's name 'Lipundja' [sic] and catalogue number 329 on the reverse of the backing board natural earth pigments and charcoal on eucalyptus bark 87.5 x 60.5cm
PROVENANCE: Painted at Milingimbi, Central Arnhem Land circa 1963 Yarrandoo Australia, Cairns Private collection Sotheby's, Aboriginal Art, Melbourne, 25 July 2005, lot 220 Private collection
Burrunday was one of the painters of the Milingimbi Easter Panels, one of which now hangs in the National Gallery of Australia (see Franchesca Cubillo and Wally Caruana (eds.), Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art: Collection highlights, Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, 2010, pp.124-5.) The paintings were inspired by the Church Panels that were made in 1963 to hang either side of the altar in the mission church at Yirrkala. The community on the island of Milingimbi had decided on making the Easter Panels as a backdrop for a pageant organised by the Methodist Church, and they were not intended for permanent display. The only support material available on Milingimbi at the time was a table-tennis top. One half of the table was painted by artists of the Yirritja moiety this is the panel in the National Gallery's Collection. The second panel was painted by Dhuwa artists, including Burrunday. Untitled (Crucifixion Study), c.1963, appears to be a study for the finished Dhuwa panel which feature Jesus Christ on the cross surrounded by his family and Roman soldiers.
Arnhem Land bark paintings depicting Christian subjects are rare. Mawalan Marika (1908-1967), a major contributor to the Yirrkala Church panels is known to have painted the death of Christ. One version of his, Crucifixion, c.1968, is in the collection of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin (illustrated in R. Crumlin and A. Knight, Aboriginal Art and Spirituality, Melbourne: Dove Publications, 1995, p.29, pl.9). The Crucifixion of Jesus, 1964, by Thomas Nandjiwarra Amagula (c.1926-1989) from Groote Eylandt is also illustrated in Crumlin and Knight, p.31, pl.10. Another example from Arnhem Land appears at lot 157 in this sale.