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African & Oceanic Art / Rare Male and Female Spirit Board Couple, probably Mina Goiravi Village, Papuan Gulf, Papua New Guinea

Lot 4
Rare Male and Female Spirit Board Couple, probably Mina Goiravi Village, Papuan Gulf, Papua New Guinea
27 April 2022, 10:00 EDT
New York

Sold for US$16,000 inc. premium

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Rare Male and Female Spirit Board Couple, probably Mina Goiravi Village, Papuan Gulf, Papua New Guinea

gope
Light brown wood with natural pigments
Heights 44 and 44 1/4in (112 and 112.5cm)

Provenance
Collected by Thomas Schultze-Westrum in 1966 (each with collection labels on back)
Marcia and John Friede Collection, New York
Marc Assayag, Cote Saint -Luc, QC, Canada
Massachusetts Private Collection

Cf. Webb, Virginia-Lee (Ed.), Embodied Spirits: Gope Boards from the Papuan Gulf, 5 Continents, Milan, 2015, plates 100 and 102, for formal characteristics of gope found in this region with a "head" indicated on top of the oval form, instead of within it.

Robert L. Welsch comments (Ibid., p. 47), "Many, if not most, of the boards and masks from the Papuan Gulf are decorated with images that represent something, often a spirit that has anthropomorphic shape. A few depict various snakes, lizards, birds, or even insects. Usually, the makers of the boards or those who owned them may have known what these images represented, but rarely did collectors bother to ask what these designs might have represented. A few researchers, F.E. Williams and Thomas Schultze-Westrum among them, did ask about the meanings of these figures on the board. It would satisfy most museum visitors to learn that a particular board represented a spirit dancing on the front of the board or that the image is one of a lizard. While sometimes true, this identification rather misses the point of the symbolism, unless it leads us to ask: Why does this particular board bear the image of a dancing spirit, while another seems to represent a spirit standing still, and another bears the likeness of a snake or lizard?"

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