Sotheby's Americana Week Auctions New York
Jan 14-24, 2022
Published: December 15, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Heritage Auctions
DALLAS – Heritage Auctions’ Ethnographic Art, American Indian, Pre-Columbian and Tribal Art Signature® Auction on December 2 presented artifacts from the Americas and Africa to a global audience, with an overall cumulative total of $1,051,585 realized.
“I thought the auction did very well. During the sale, we only had two of the Native American lots pass,” Delia Sullivan, Heritage Auctions’ senior specialist for Native American, Tribal and Ethnographic Art said.
A highlight of the sale were three Sioux beaded hide garments – a cape, pair of gauntlets and vest – and a beaded red wool tablecloth, all of which had descended in the family of Julia Jordan, an Oglala full-blood member of Chief Red Cloud’s band (1857-1913), who had made them for her daughter, Mary Julia. Jordan was the wife of Charles P. Jordan, Indian agent and co-owner with J. A. Anderson of the Jordan Mercantile Company on the Rosebud Reservation.
Jordan’s beadwork was worn in Indian shows and displayed at expositions in Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco and Cincinnati. The beaded hide cape, made circa 1900, won top-lot honors in the sale, wrapping up at $37,500. For $2,500, a bidder took home the pair of gauntlets and matching vest. Jordan’s red wool tablecloth measured 52¼ by 48¼ inches and relates to one in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian; it is believed to have been worked by the same hand and realized $11,875. An American institution purchased both the cape and the tablecloth.
The catalog entry for an early Twentieth Century Salampasu mask from the Democratic Republic of Congo noted that it was “regarded as one of the most important masks of its type,” further outlining three publications and two museum exhibitions in which it had been featured. Its provenance included a private New York City and Belgium tribal and African art dealer Bernard de Grunne. Standing just 33 inches tall, it brought $31,250 from a European buyer and was the second highest price of the sale.
Other masks also faced large interest from bidders, whether from Africa or other regions. A Kuba mask from the Democratic Republic of Congo, mid to late Nineteenth Century with provenance to two French collections as well as one in New York, made $9,375, the same price achieved by a Biwat face masks from the Yuat River in Papua New Guinea that had, at one time, been in the collection of the Ethnographic Museum in Dresden, Germany.
Pre-Columbian works also claimed a place on the leaderboard, with a circa 700-1400 CE Diquis gold figural pendant from Costa Rica, which brought $25,000 from an American private collector. The figure stood just 3¼ inches tall and weighed in at 108 grams. It had been handled by Enrique Vargas Alfaro, who the auction catalog described as the source of the highest quality Pre-Columbian art in the collections of Andre Emmerich, Morton D. May, Frederick and Jan Mayer, and William C. and Carol W. Thibodeaux. He also helped place works in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, The Denver Art Museum and the Michael C. Carlos Museum. He was the grandson of Anastasio Alfaro (1865-1951), archaeologist, geologist, ethnographer and explorer, as well as a member of the board at the National Museum of Costa Rica and the author of Antigüedades en Costa Rica (1892).
Of similar vintage was a Colombian Calima gold disc pectoral with an abstract face in the center. Measuring 7 inches in diameter and weighing 160 grams (approximately one-third pound), it was accompanied by a letter of authenticity and brought $15,000.
A pair of Peruvian Chimu mosaic earrings made of shell, turquoise and other stones with leather backing had been featured in a 2016 exhibition at Yale University Art Gallery titled “Weaving and the Social World: 3,000 Years of Ancient Andean Textiles.” Dated to 1100-1400 CE, they brought $20,000.
The same Yale exhibition also featured a Bolivian Tiahuanaco carved stone beaker or kero, a form used in feasting ceremonies for the consumption of chicha or corn beer. Standing just 5 inches tall and carved with a rayed face that is believed to represent Tiahuanaco’s principal deities, possibly a sun god. The beaker was considered of exceptionally fine quality and achieved a proportionally fine result of $11,563.
Early woven examples were led by a complex Peruvian Chimu or Lambayeque ceremonial textile woven from camelid fibers with five square panels with stylized figures within shrines, with numerous tassels throughout. Deemed in very good to excellent condition and professionally mounted onto a velour covered frame that measured 34 by 52 inches; it closed at $12,500.
A seated Taino spirit figure from the Dominican Republic was a standout and achieved $18,750. Dated to the late Fifteenth to mid-Seventeenth Century, the carved ironwood figure embodied the cycles of life and death with both skeletal and virile features. Wilfred Belmar collected the figure in the 1930s, as well as a few other lots in the sale; they had remained in his family since his death in 1980. Radiocarbon-14 analysis confirmed its age, and it was further vetted in 2015 by Taino scholar Dr William Keegan, as well as Dr John F. Scott, both of Florida. The figure had been exhibited at the Museum of Native American History in Bentonville, Ark., and referenced in no fewer than four publications.
The sale featured more than two dozen lots of Native American baskets, a subcategory that was led at $23,750 by a Yokuts coiled polychrome basket with lid that was made by Mary Sampson in the late Nineteenth Century. An intact line of provenance from 1913 accompanied the sedge, bracken fern root and redbud basket, which was acquired by George Hume of Sanger, Calif., and subsequently descended in his family in Phoenix, Ariz. A large Western Apache pictorial coiled storage jar, made from willow, devil’s claw and dyed yucca circa 1900, reached $20,000. The 23½-inch diameter jar had passed through several hands, including two auctions at Sotheby’s (in 1985 and 2009), two New York City collections, and a Santa Fe gallery.
In the Native American pottery category, San Ildefonso pottery was the strongest contender, with a lidded redware jar circa 1965-70 bringing $20,625, and a redware bear, circa 1969, going out at $13,750. Both were made by Tony Da (1940-2008). Three other pieces by the potter realized slightly more modest results: $8,750 for a carved redware jar, an ovoid blackware jar at $4,250 and $4,000 for one of two blackware model hornos he is known to have made.
Heritage Auctions next Ethnographic Art American Indian, Pre-Columbian and Tribal Art Signature® Auction is tentatively scheduled for July 8.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.ha.com or 214-528-3500.
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