Large Worsera Figure, Southern Abelam, Middle Sepik River, Papua New Guinea

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Lot 45
Large Worsera Figure, Southern Abelam, Middle Sepik River, Papua New Guinea

Sold for US$ 12,500 inc. premium
Large Worsera Figure, Southern Abelam, Middle Sepik River, Papua New Guinea
Wood
height 96in (244cm)

Finely carved in light wood of tall, elongated form, wearing a headdress with two horned avian figures extending down to the shoulders with openwork carving, sloping shoulders with the arms away from the elliptical-shaped body with the hands to the hips, the legs rounded at the thighs and knees, standing on a partially eroded base; varied light-brown weathered patina.

PROVENANCE
Phillip Goldman, field collected in the 1950s
Marcia and John Friede Collection, Rye, New York

A report by the University of Arizona's C-14 laboratory dates this work between 1635 and 1809 with a 95.4% probability.

According to Michael Kremerskothen (personal communication with Friede, March 2015), "The figures [both the present and following lot] could be from Yama, but I would not support this idea. Yama items are more rustic, simple, naturalistic and crude (Kultur der Abelam, Gerd Koch, Berlin, plates 51 to 53). Your figures are skillful carvings with interesting details, which I never saw on objects from the Yama area, and this (sic) details tell me, they could rather be from Wosera, very early Wosera figures. And there are influences from the south (Sawos, Iatmul) and of course the north Abelam (Oceanic Art, A. Meyer, p 277, plate 304), especially the way the body of the double figure is carved, so defined, etc., shows the influence of the Sepik area.

The following elements or ornaments of the figures you can see on Wosera figures, but also on northern Abelam figures: the hook elements on the shoulder of one figure (see Oceanic Art, Carl A. Schmitz, pl. 44) the carved round elements next to the hook elements attached to the head (see Carl A. Schmitz , plate 41), the round power ornaments you see sometimes between the hands and the lower arm, [and] the carved elements on both sides; from the shoulders, or the upper leg, up to the waken ornament of the head (Schmitz, plate 41). Also the carved lines around the upper arms (Schmitz, plate 41 and 44). Of course also the faces (clear and straight line over the carved eyes, long nose and the triangle on the forehead) and the nice bird carvings point as well to early Wosera.

Now to the last point, the "beards." I am not sure if this ornaments around the mouth are representing a beard. But I think they look very much like the painted ornaments around the mouth of the big faces (nggwalndu) on the front of the Abelam houses. (see Kultur der Abelam, Gerd Koch, Berlin, plates 3 and 16). The ornaments also ending on the left face in three kind of triangles, and the right one in one kind of triangle."
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