Lot 34, Mask, Bungain,
East Sepik Province, Papua, New Guinea, 16 inches high
34 is a Bungain mask from the East Sepik Province in Papua, New
Guinea. It is 16 inches high and was once with Charles Ratton of
Paris. It has an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. It sold for $175,000.
Lot 64, Pair of Yoruba
Female Twin Figures, 8 inches high
64 is a pair of Yoruba female twin figures, about 8 inches high.
The lot has an estimate of $5,000 to $7,000. It sold for $8,750.
Lot 6, Dan Bird Mask,
Cote d'Ivoire or Liberia, 10 3/8 inches high
6 is a very fine Dan Bird Mask from Cote d'Ivoire or Liberia. It
is 10 3/8 inches high.
Lots 43 and 44,
Stone Figure of the Goddess Chicomecoatl," Postclassic, circa 1300-1521
A.D., 16 7/8 inches high
The catalogue entry provides the following commentary:
"The sublimely beautiful masks of the Dan people are among Africa’s
most refined sculptural styles. Inhabiting the region bisected by the
border between present-day Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia, the Dan
participated in masquerades which have important judicial, political,
religious, and social functions. The masks worn by the dancers in such
masquerades represent a diverse pantheon of characters that embody
particular spirits. These take on human and animal forms, or as in the
case of the present mask, a fantastic mixture of both. The mask as an
object is endowed with spiritual power, and distinguished masks may be
passed on from generation to generation, their potency increasing with
This large mask has a profound black glossy patina, the
result of repeated anointment and use, with encrustations of
ritually-applied materials. The voluminous downward curved beak recalls
that of a hornbill, and is enhanced by small serrated teeth, a feature
which the sculptor has borrowed from another animal. The mask’s anatomy
is human also, with heavily lidded eyes facing forward above angular
cheekbones. Above the eyes is a diadem of points, which recall a
costume headband, or a formation of feathers, or perhaps a
highly-abstracted interpretation of a headband of vertical mammal horns
worn by Dan warriors and referenced in other bird masks (Vogel, African
Aesthetics, 1986, p. 39).
"The sculptor has built the volumes of this mask in a
masterful arrangement of cubistic planes. The highly stylized radiating
points of the diadem rise in an arched row from the forehead,
predicting the exuberant Art Deco crown structures such as Manhattan's
Chrysler Building; beneath this the bone structure of the human eyes
and cheeks are formed by sophisticated polyhedrons, bilaterally
symmetrical and divided by a strong ridge at the center of the brow.
The central ridge continues down into the patiently-smoothed mass of
the enormous beak, the upper mandible of which is underscored by two
deeply inscribed parallel lines. The elegant slits of the eyes project
feminine beauty, fused with the solidity and strength of a powerful
bill, structured cheekbones, and spiked diadem.
"These aesthetics no doubt appealed to the mask’s previous
owner Charles Ratton, the preeminent dealer of indigenous cultures' art
in twentieth century Paris, who propelled the evolution of taste in
this type of art among Western audiences. With close ties to the
Parisian avant-garde, including André Breton, Tristan Tzara and Paul
Éluard, Ratton helped to elevate the status of so-called "primitive"
arts, which he considered worthy of equal attention in the canons of
"The iconography of a part-human, part-bird is a powerful
artistic concept which has appeared across various world cultures.
Bird-human hybrids appear in Oceania and Papua New Guinea, and the
surrealist Max Ernst famously drew inspiration from the bird men of
Easter Island reliefs and wood sculpture. According to Maurer, 'The
Primitive aspect that Ernst saw in himself [...] not only enabled him
to live in harmony with nature, but helped him explore all her
mysteries and appropriate the secrets of her creative powers. In both
classical and tribal mythology, animals and their anthropomorphized
variants appear as symbols of both the spiritual forces of nature and
man's mystical relationship to these forces. These types of images
appear throughout Max Ernst's oeuvre - a bizarre menagerie of insects,
fish, animals, and fantastic hybrids that constitute his personal
bestiary. The bird, however, is by far his favorite and most frequently
represented creature, and in his intimate association with birds we
find Ernst's most significant association with the Primitive' (Mauer,
in Rubin, ed., Primitivism, vol. II, 1984, p. 553). Ernst went so far
as to identify himself with a mythical character named Loplop, a
bird-man who frequently recurred in his drawings, paintings, and
collages. Ernst's famous 1934 collage-novel Une semaine de bonté is rich with
references to classical mythology as well as forms inspired by the arts
and myths of primary cultures, and especially bird-headed human
figures, expressions of a powerful spiritual and artistic affinity
across distant cultures."
The lot has an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000. It failed to sell.
43 and lot 44, are,
according to the catalogue, "part of an important group of four known
Postclassic figural censors from the northern Colima region of El
Chanal. Their eccentric and stylized faces and rope-like arms echo
earlier West Mexican figural styles, but it is the round woven cane
stools (known as equipales) which are of particular distinction. Hasso
von Winning first studied the three figures in the Silver collection in
1968; his later article discussed the ethnographic importance of
the cane and bamboo round seats used by the Huichols of Nayarit (von
Winning, 'Der westmexikanische equipal-Stuhl', Indiana, 1984, pp.
175-187). An important source was the early work of the Norwegian
explorer/anthropologist Carl Lumholtz. Lumholtz traveled from Arizona
down through Mexico in 1892, recording and studying indigenous groups
including the Huichol and Cora of the Sierra Madre Occidental. His two
volume publication in 1902, Unknown Mexico, was a landmark oeuvre with
illustrated, highly personal accounts of West Mexican customs and art.
Round stools held special importance as nearly all depictions of seats
are rectangular. Lumholtz describes the equipales for shaman and their
attendants as seats of divine power, an indispensable accessory for
shamanic customs (Lumholtz, Unknown Mexico, vol. II, 1902, pp. 30-31).
Lumholtz records, "The singing shaman who was the leader, sat in a
peculiar arm-chair used by the tribe" (ibid., p. 7). He refers to
shaman sitting for days, "...on all festive occasions the shaman and
the principal men use such chairs and after the feast is over, everyone
takes his chair home with him." A smaller version of the cane stool was
called a "Gods chair" (ibid., p. 30-31). Veneration of deities
included long celebratory rituals involving combinations of
performance, feasting, fasting, sacrifice, and divinations. Within the
framework of Postclassic iconography, von Winning noted the figures can
be compared to the deity Mixcoatl, God of the Hunt, as illustrated in
the codices Magliabechiano and Vaticanus, which show impersonators with
costume elements similar to the Silver’s figures including the stiff
broad collar, headband with applied medallions, and twisted armbands
(ibid., p. 179). Postclassic figural censors depicting a skeletal deity
or the rain god Tlaloc are from a different region and were of very
blocky proportion. The Silvers' figures are a refined and vivid
reference to the ritual behavior of elite individuals. For the closely
related fourth and companion figure, see Elizabeth Kennedy Easby and
John Scott, eds. Before Cortes, Sculpture of Middle America, 1971, fig.
264, (also Sotheby's, New York, May 15, 2009, lot 140), currently on
loan to the Yale University Art Gallery (ILE2010.17.1)."
Nayarit Family, Ixtlan del Rio style, Protoclassic, 100 BC-AD 250, 15
1/2 and 18 1/4 inches high
Lot 43 has an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It sold for $118,750.
Lor 44 is 25 3/4 inches high. It has an estimate of $10,000 to
$15,000. It sold for $9,375.
35 is a very good Nayarit family in the Istlan del Rio style,
Protoclassic, 100 BC - AD 250. One of the figures is 15 1/2
inches high and the other 18 1/4 inches.
The catalogue provides the following commentary:
family group is the most elaborate and ornately decorated of the
Silvers' West Mexican couples, a tour de force of form and color, and a
defining model of the Ixtlán del Rio style of elite ancestor figures.
With lively and vibrant identical expressions, poised in their
respective roles (holding a nursing child and playing a rasp), they
portray a youthful couple that have fulfilled their achievements and
celebrate the continuity of their status. The couple is a confirmation
of 'gender complementarity,' described as the idealized portrayal of
male and female roles as separate but interdependent and supportive
spheres of activity (Pirtle, in Beekman and Pickering, eds.,
Reassessment, 2016, p. 159). Pirtle’s study of attributes denoting
gender and status in Ixtlán figures emphasized how status and gender
were shown by the frequency of both male and female figures
participating in all rituals. The 'imperceptible difference in
adornments between the sexes may indicate that participation in ritual
was about status or families and less about gender' (ibid.).
"Ancestor worship was an important practice and belief system
throughout West Mexico, and was integral for establishing status and
power (Butterwick, Heritage of Power, 2004, p. 11). Townsend describes
the 'festive pairs' as commemorating marriage and referencing the
primordial union of male and female creative forces. Butterwick refers
to the ancestral couple, possibly sibling ancestors, as the highest
ranking individuals as they established land territories and control of
the resources within the area.
"Founding ancestor ceramics reinforced their kinship ties through their
shared facial features, elaborate body designs, jewelry, and clothing.
On this couple, both their faces are covered in curvilinear and
segmented designs highlighting their open mouths and wide, rimmed eyes.
Their excessive jewelry includes the dense arc of earrings, beaded
necklaces, and crescentic pendant, as well as effigy nose ornaments.
The female nurses a child clinging to her bare chest which is
highlighted by zigzag designs. Her tight fitting skirt is patterned
with alternating squares of diagonal stripes and scroll motifs which
are repeated on the man’s short-sleeved tunic. He plays an effigy rasp
that is humorously modeled as a couple engaged in lively conversation,
their joined elongated bodies forming the rasp with their feet
projecting at the bottom. The male wears a peaked cap with a stiff
segmented brim that is secured with an animal pelt showing paws at each
"Clothing details on ceramic figures such as these are the only source
of insight into the textiles of ancient Mexico, the actual fabrics long
lost in the archaeological record. In addition, textile exchange
was part of the larger trade networks along the Pacific coast whereby
the valuable, and in some cases sacred, raw materials such as spondylus
and obsidian available in Mexico were traded to Ecuador and the larger
Andean region. There is a distinct similarity of textile styles found
in Ecuadorian Chorrera and Bahia phase figures (spanning 1500 BC-AD
500) and the Ixtlán del Rio figures....Patricia Anawalt extensively
studied textiles of ancient Mesoamerica, with particular research on
the textile patterns of the Tarascan empire (AD 900-1500s) as shown in
the sixteenth century colonial document Relación de Michoacán. She
showed that distinct designs on Ixtlán figures are the same as clothing
illustrated in the Relación. She further concludes, “Within Mesoamerica
the tradition of Ecuadorian-style clothing marked into geometric
squares is known only in West Mexico, both at Ixtlán del Rio and, over
a thousand years later, among the sixteenth–century Tarascans”
(Anawalt, in Townsend, ed., Ancient West Mexico, 1998, p. 242). Besides
specific jewelry such as tusk pendants, she observed that short
breeches, short-sleeved tunics, women's wrapround skirts, and the
step-fret motif are key attributes shared in both Ecuadorian and Ixtlán
del Rio figures (ibid., p. 237).
"There is joy and a celebration of life conveyed by this couple with
their infant. They are participants in a timeless affirmation of the
community and the accomplishments of broader societal roles.
It has an estimate of $70,000
to $100,000. It sold for