Carter B. Horsley
has described the
Collection of Saul and Marsha Stanoff was "arguably the most
important private collection bridging the fields of African, Oceanic,
Pre-Columbian and American Indian Art to appear at auction."
certainly a spectacular
collection that includes several masterpieces including two African
sculptures that were formerly in the collection of Maurice de
Vlaminck, one of the major Fauve painters, and a spectacular Chinesco
seated figure. Mr. Stanoff was born in New York in 1917 and died
in 2005. He and Marsha began collected Pre-Columbian Art in the
1950s and African Art around 1970. Mrs. Stanoff has told Sotheby's
that their first exposure to African Art was through Katherine
White whose collection is now in the Seattle Art Museum.
is a "superb, rare
and highly important" Bamum headcrest that is 20 1/4 inches
high. It is one of the two lots in this auction that were once
in the collection of Maurice de Vlaminck. With its blown cheeks,
bulbous eyes with coffee-bean irises and "a dramatically
backswept bilobed bonnet," this is a sensational masterpiece.
catalogue provides the
powerful and elegant
sculpture is among the rarest objects in Cameroon art. It can
be attributed to a Bamum workshop in the Makutam region, which
produced large scale headcrests, so-called tungunga,
show influence of the souther Tikar mih-yang masks....Tungunga
headcrests were danced in pairs of two and evoked the images of
a deceased king and his wife. They were held ontop of the head
and affixed by a fiber construction hidden underneath a raffia
frill. Tungungas were danced by a the members of
a secret society for warriors. Only those men who had killed an
enemy in the field of battle could become members of this society....Tungunga
dancers appeared only at funerals of important persons, namely
of chiefs, members of the royal family, state ministers, and initates
of the nsoro. The bilobed bonnet of the Stanoff tungunga
indicates the representation of a king. The importance of the
Stanoff tungunga lies not only in its rarity but in
signficance to the evolution of 20th Century art. The sculpture
embodies the quintessence of Cubist thought: the artist's idea
- here the king as symbol of stately authority, hierarchic order
of society ..., and guarantor of continuity - is broken up, analyzed,
and re-assembled into abstract form. The result of this process
is expressed in five hemispherical forms of varying sizes, a tubular
vertical element, a protruding oval ring, and two quarter-spheres,
all arranged in an order that allows our mind to interpret it
in the desired way: the elegance of the curved neck is repeated
in the backswpt bonnet and gives the sculpture a regal presence;
the massiveness and depth of the forms together with the dramatic
eyebrows render the image strikingly powerful; and the theme of
the circle as expressed in the hemispherical eyes, cheeks, and
chin, as well as the oval mouth, evoke the idea of unlimited
Picasso applied the same thought process in a series of bronze
sculptures, all executed in 19131, based on the bodyof his young
mistress, Marie-Therese Walter."
has an estimate of
$600,000 to $700,000. It sold for $1,608,000 including the
buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.
sale, which was expected
to bring between $4,000,000 and $5,700,000, totaled $11,904,300
with 78 of the 80 offered lots selling, many at multiples of their
The second de Vlaminck work is
Lot 19, a "magnificent
Krou (Grebo) mask" from the Ivory Coast. Carved from a single
piece of wood with blue, black and white pigments and a rope spanning
the projecting lips. It is 21 inches high. The catalogue includes
a long quotation discussing this work from William Rubin, the
former director of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern
"This mask has one eye with an
the symmetry of the whole piece, it's at once an interesting and
arresting aspect of it. Whether this had some kind of implication
of a religious sort, we don't know. Whether the man who made was
one-eyed or had some kind of facial tick, we can't know either.
It may indeed only attach to a sense of artistic 'play' in the
artist's mind. this is, some notion of opposition as opposed to
similarity. The meaning for me here is the shock of contrast within
a structure of similarity. Everything is not only othersiw symmetrical
in this piece, but it is usually unified in the sense that it
has one color. The color gives it a oneness, as does the symmetry.
Then you have this single, boffo change - a perfect example of
how artists did not just imitate models."
The lot has an estimate of
$600,000 to $900,000.
It sold for $768,000.
is a "magnificent"
Hemba caryatid stool from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The stool, which has an "exceptional circular chignon coiffure"
and "exceptionally fine lustrous dark brown patina, is 18
inches high and was acquired by the Stanoffs from Merton D. Simpson
of New York.
almost perfectly circular
face and geometrically lovely coiffure and the quite dramatic
and almost abstract handling of her hands, the stylized work is
impressively beautiful even if it is missing the lower part of
her legs and its base.
has an estimate of
$500,000 to $700,000. It sold for $1,160,000, an auction
for a Hemba stool.
Lot 1 is a "superb" Maori
that is 5 1/2 inches high. The catalogue entry suggests it was
carved in the Rougowkakaata tribal style that was famous for its
carving skills in the early 19th Century. The lot has an estimate
of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $57,000.
Lot 27 is a "superb" Bembe
male figure from the Republic of the Congo. The 7-inch figure
holds a flywhisk to the back of his head and his small eyes are
inset with porcelain. The work has an "exceptionally fine
lustrous honey and reddish brown patina. The lot has an estimate
of $25,000 to $35,000. It sold for $132,000.
One of the most dramatic works
in the auction
is Lot 40, a 20 1/4-inch-high Tabwa paddle from the Democratic
Republic of the Congo. The catalogue notes that "the exact
use of these paddles is not known," but suggests they were
"linked to fecundity." The work is notable for the geometric
styling of the "paddle" portion, the almost haughty
pose of the head, the considerable scarification and the use of
beads around both the neck and waist. It has a conservative estimate
of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold for $228,000.
Lot 16 is a lovely Dan mask
from the Ivory
Coast that is remarkable for the exceptional preservation of the
headdress and qualty of the carving. It is 8 inches high. It has
an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $48,000.
Lot 26 is a "fine" Fang
guardian figure from Gabon that is 15 3/4 inches high. It has
an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000. It sold for $360,000.
is a marvelously abstract
Lega figure. Only 4 7/8 inches high, it is characterized in the
catalogue as "superb" and it was formerly in the collections
of J. J. Klejman and John Friede, both of New York.
Lega fiture with
the zigzag body is arguably the most widely known work of African
art in the Stanoff Collection," the catalogue entry notes,
and was exhibited in the"Primitivism in 20th Century Art"
exhibition in 1984-5 at the Museum of Modern Art. The entry also
provides the following quotation from Mr. Stanoff recalling when
he first saw the work:
finally saw the
piece, well, it just blew my mind. This Lega has everything going
for it down to the smallest details. Look at that face, the way
the eyelids droop and the expression of the mouth. Is this a seer?
Is it someone telling us important information? Look at that vertical
line down the entire back and the way the shoulders are thrown
back from thehead."
has a modest estimate
of $30,000 to $50,000. It sold for $312,000.
Lot 5 is an extraordinary Dogon
from Mali that is 11 inches high and described in the catalogue
as "superb." Like Lot 47, it also was formerly in the
Klejman and Friede collections and was acquired from Ben Birillo
in the1970s. "One of the most striking examples of Dogon
sculpture in the Bombu-Toro style, the subject figure was interpreted
by Hèléne Leloup in her landmark book Dogon Statuary,
as presenting a sick person with frail limbs, the right hand touching
the left elbow showing a gesture asking for forgiveness....As
the Dogon to not believe in natural causes for illness but attribute
them instead to curses or transgressions..., in this sculpture
the artist created an dramatic and touching metaphor for the
suffering of manking."
This work makes the spindly
bronze stick figures
of Giacometti look amateurish.
The lot has an estimate of
$50,000 to $70,000.
It sold for $240,000.
It is the perfect companion to
Lot 61, a Chinesco
seated figure that the Stanoffs acquired about a decade earlier.
Described in the catalogue as
Lot 61 is a fabulous masterpiece that is dated to the Protoclassic
period, circa 100 B.C.-A.D. 250. It is 12 1/2 inches high but
its slender form gives it a marvelous sense of monumentality.
The catalogue describes it as
stylized body forming graceful, geometric openwork areas, showing
a small smile on the tear-shaped head, with long slit eyes, and
upturned nose adorned with a bead, the tall forehead with rounded
convex coiffure, the curing columnar gack painted with spinal
designs, and wearing a zigzag patterned loincloth with a wide
belt low on the hips, and with armbands."
"This figure, above all others,
the language of the Stanoff Collection - economy of form, intensity
of spirit, and monumentality surpassing actual size," the
catalogue entry observed, adding that "Saul Stanoff considerted
this the best piece within his Pre-Columbian collection, noting
its evocative quality and architectural form."
The lot has a conservative
estimate of $150,000
to $250,000. It sold for $1,720,000, setting an auction
for a Pre-Columbian work of art.
Lot 65, is a "fine Maya
Jaina, Late Classic, circa A.D. 550-950" that depicts "the
regal lord of tall stature, garbed in attire as a victorious warrior,
a staff or club once in the cupped right hand, his chiseled face
with solemn expression, shaved forehead, full lips, closely shorn
beard and mustache, and applied nose bridge extension, wearing
the xicolli sleeveless vest, loincloth and belt
with thick row of shell danglers, his collar of massive peccary
tusks centering a large shell, the majestic headdress with wavy
brim supporting a cascade of plumed reeds arching behind, and
with large medallions in front, his ears covered by jaguar ears,
and holding a massive shield fringed by undulating feather band,
a long bone and plumed disk at the top, and embossed with a deity
face with scrolled brows, mouth curled open and tongue extended,
and wearing lunate ear ornaments...."
In a word....sensational!
The 12 1/2-inch high work has a
of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $432,000, setting an
record for a Mayan figure.
Lot 69 is a very impressive
dance rattle from the Northwest Coast, probably Bella Coola. It
is 12 1/8 inches long. The large globular head of "an unidentified
creature carved in high-relief with stylized mask-like
a splayed headdress surmounted by an animal." The lot has
an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It sold for $72,000.