Oceanian art and tribal artefacts from the South Sea Islands are cherished as much for their romantic narratives as the skills and craftsmanship behind them. A rare opportunity to buy such objects – including an 18th-century wooden spear belonging to Captain Cook – will arise on April 5-7, when French auction house Aguttes holds a three-day sale in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Paris, following an exhibition from March 29 to April 4.
On offer are more than 800 items collected by leading pre-Columbian art dealer Rainer Werner Bock, from 18th-century bowls, pestles and lances to fish hooks and model boats. Cook’s spear (estimate €68,000-€75,000) was found during the explorer’s third expedition in 1779-1780 and is likely to attract fierce bidding, as are a 19th-century silk flag of Hawaii (€12,000-€15,000) and an 18th-century fibre war helmet (€55,000-€65,000) discovered by one of the first French scientific expeditions to Hawaii.
Character and colour abound, especially in a carved head (€22,000-€28,000) from the Solomon Islands and a canary-yellow and red feather ornament for flasks and bottles (€8,500-€9,500) from Hawaii. Highlights from the 19th century include a club (€75,000-€85,000) carved out of casuarina wood from the Marquesas Islands; a delicate Tahi’i fan (€30,000-€35,000), also from the Marquesas; and a Hawaiian Pahu war drum (€12,000-€15,000).
Another focal point of the sale is boats, which were essential to the Polynesians. There are 54 beautifully crafted models, with one of the standout lots a large 19th-century Maori war canoe (€45,000-€55,000).
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