Exceptional and Rare Maori Anthropomorphic Pendant, New Zealand, ca. 1600-1700

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Lot 302
Exceptional and Rare Maori Anthropomorphic Pendant, New Zealand, ca. 1600-1700

Sold for US$ 75,075 inc. premium
Exceptional and Rare Maori Anthropomorphic Pendant, New Zealand, ca. 1600-1700
hei tiki
height 4in (10cm)

James T. Hooper Collection, London/Arundel
Christie's, London, 21 June 1977, Lot 58
Robert M. Browne Collection, Honolulu, Hawai'i (no. 955)
Mark and Carolyn Blackburn Collection, Honolulu, Hawai'i

Phelps, Steven, Art and Artefacts of the Pacific, Africa and the Americas - The James Hooper Collection, Hutchinson Publications, London, 1976, fig. 50;
Mack, Charles, Polynesian Art at Auction 1965–1980, Mack-Nasser Publishing, Northboro, MA, 1982, p. 132-133;
Kaeppler, Adrienne, Polynesia — The Mark and Carolyn Blackburn Collection of Polynesia Art, University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu, 2015, pp. 160 and 340, fig. 456

Born September 1, 1897, James Thomas Hooper had amassed the most important private collection of Polynesian art by the time he turned sixty. In 1957, he put his entire collection on public display at his personal 'Totems Museum.'

Hooper wrote, "After my service in World War I, my quest for ethnographical specimens continued but I soon realised that many of the products of primitive man were becoming increasingly difficult to obtain.

With the advent of modern civilisation, the whole way of life of many primitive peoples had changed and this was bringing about the disappearance of their weapons, ornaments, dress, gods, masks and other objects associated with their former existence. I could see that no time should be lost if such objects were to be preserved and I therefore commenced in earnest the forming of an ethnographical collection." (Hooper, J.T. and Burland, C.A., The Art of Primitive Peoples, Fountain Press, London, 1953, pp. 11-12)

According to Roger Neich, 'Distinct from all of these forms, the jade breast ornament called hei-tiki is the most characteristic and most highly valued of all Maori personal ornaments. In some Maori origin myths, Tiki was the first man, having been created by the god Tane. Thus carvings of human figures in any material whether bone, stone or wood, may be called a tiki. The prefix hei indicates something suspended from the neck, as in hei-tiki and hei-matau. Hei-tiki may be worn by both men and women, usually hanging vertically but sometimes horizontally from a suspension point on the side, especially by women. They are passed down through the generations as family heirlooms, and during a funeral they will be displayed near the deceased, along with other family heirlooms. With their own personal names, many hei-tiki are remembered in tribal songs and oral histories. Most of the mana or prestige of the hei-tiki derives from its close contact with those great ancestors who have worn it in the past, rather than from any magical or mystical meaning. Some would argue for a phallic symbolism in hei-tiki, while others claim that they represent fertility, perhaps in the form of a human embryo. Most commentators would agree that many of the current meanings attached to hei-tiki are relatively recent interpretations of an ancient symbol refined by many generations of artists. It is only natural that such a potent image as the hei-tiki would be subject to continuing reinterpretation. Consequently, any search for the "original meaning" of the hei-tiki is probably futile.' (Pounamu: Maori Jade of New Zealand, David Bateman Ltd., Auckland, 1997, pp. 23-25)

Exquisitely carved with stone tools from the highly-valued pounamu nephrite greenstone, in rare low-relief form with an exceedingly rare turn of the head to the left, each hand with three fingers, the left to the chest and the right to the hip; the right eye with paua shell inlay and red sealing wax as a pupil, the left eye inlays now missing. According to Kaeppler (Ibid.), "the suspension hole at the top and the projections of the ears and beard suggest a Bay of Plenty origin" on the north shore of the north island of New Zealand; collectors' marks "H150/Br.955" written in white on back.
Exceptional and Rare Maori Anthropomorphic Pendant, New Zealand, ca. 1600-1700
Exceptional and Rare Maori Anthropomorphic Pendant, New Zealand, ca. 1600-1700
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