Superb Hook Necklace, Hawaiian Islands

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Lot 315Y
Superb Hook Necklace, Hawaiian Islands

Sold for US$ 45,000 inc. premium

African and Oceanic Art

22 May 2018, 15:00 PDT

Los Angeles

Superb Hook Necklace, Hawaiian Islands
lei nihoa palao
Whale tooth with braided hair
length 9 1/2in (24.1cm)
length of hook 4 1/4in (11.5cm)


Provenance
Private Collection, Kailua, Kona

'Hawaii is the most isolated archipelago on Earth. It is astonishing that Polynesian explorers in double-hulled canoes--lashed together with coconut fiber and propelled by sails of woven mats--discovered and settled these islands roughly a thousand years ago. They came upon a verdant island chain with a subtropical climate, rich soils, and abundant natural resources. Nurtured by this salubrious environment, their descendants multiplied, founding an island civilization that remained unknown to the rest of the world. Independently of what was happening in China or Japan, in Mesoamerica, or in Europe, the Hawaiian people constructed their own unique history.

This island civilization in many respects mirrored early states that arose in other favorable zones in both the Old World and New. From a small founding population, over the course of several centuries a hierarchical society emerged, supported by a robust agricultural economy. A distinct class of chiefs depended on and managed a vast population of farming and fishing commoners. An elaborate system of rules and obligations--the kapu system--governed the relationships between the chiefs and the people. At the pinnacle of society were the island rulers, ali'i akua (literally, "god-kings"), whose prerogatives included royal incest and human sacrifice. In these practices, the Hawaiian kings resembled the pharaohs of Egypt and the Inca of Peru. Yet Hawaiian culture arose entirely independently in this most remote, most isolated of all places on Earth.'

Patrick Vinton Kirch, PhD
A Shark Going Inland is My Chief - The Island Civilization of Ancient Hawai'i, University of California Press, Ltd., 2012, p. XI

In the early nineteenth century, whalers and traders began to supply sperm whale teeth and walrus tusks allowing artists to create impressive versions of the old, smaller versions of the hook-shaped pendants. Most likely made for and worn by an ali'i, these larger versions are considered the most spectacular of all Hawaiian ornaments. The present work on offer is a particularly large and handsome example, with a pierced hook-shaped pendant with superb, honey-brown patina, attached to a bundle of finely woven, eight-ply hair. The bundle is bound with a series of individual eight-ply hair bindings, each tied in a knot on the back, and two fiber bindings on each side.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note, the hook pendent is Walrus, not Sperm Whale.
Contacts
Superb Hook Necklace, Hawaiian Islands
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