Oceania, French Polynesia, Marquesas Islands, Enata peoples, ca. 20th century CE. A fabulous u'u club, hand-carved from iron wood and meticulously polished to a smooth textured feel. The club's classic form is comprised of a cylindrical shaft leading upwards to a highly-stylized T-shaped paddle with a round, concave top. The neck of the paddle displays a quartet of Janiform faces with ovoid eyes, thin lips, and stern expressions, all of which are enclosed by a pair of incised zigzag borders. Each side of the middle bar depicts an abstract anthropomorphic face with enormous eyes and gaping mouths, and a pair of additional faces with coronal halos adorn each side of the topmost section. Finely carved with raised decorations on both sides with rich, dark-brown matte patina. Custom museum-quality display stand included. Size: 5.5" W x 53" H (14 cm x 134.6 cm); 56.5" H (143.5 cm) on included custom stand.
Wooden war clubs are common throughout Polynesia, but the face-shape is distinctive to the Marquesas, where the native name for a war club is "u'u." The motif seen on this club and ones like it are found throughout Marquesan carvings, including on wooden bowls and ear ornaments. They also would have been mirrored on the tattooed skin of the warrior who wielded the club, instantly recognizable to members of the culture as having a particular regional and personal identity.Wood carving in the Marquesas Islands is a practice undertaken by many of the local master craftsmen, who are known as "tuhuna." The tuhuna are not only adept at wood carving, but are also skilled at tattoo art and adze manufacturing. Marquesan wooden crafts are considered among the finest in French Polynesia - they are highly sought after and of consistently high quality.
For a similar example, please see The Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession number 1979.206.1471: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/313659A similar example hammered for $68,500 at Sotheby's, New York "African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art Including Property from the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation" Auction (May 13, 2011, lot 315): http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2011/african-oceanic-and-precolumbian-art-n08749/lot.315.html
Another similar example hammered for EUR 145,500 ($171,504.34) at Christie's, Paris (sale 13638, June 23, 2016, lot 45): https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/sculptures-statues-figures/massue-uu-iles-marquises-epoque-1804-183-6004125-details.aspx?from=searchresults&intObjectID=6004125&sid=ed263db5-8785-43c1-8bd2-55dc86a1b60c
Provenance: private Newport Beach, California, USA collection All items legal to buy/sell under U.S. Statute covering cultural patrimony Code 2600, CHAPTER 14, and are guaranteed to be as described or your money back.
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Surface wear and minor abrasions commensurate with age, light fading to finer incised details and areas of wood coloration, and very minor nicks to some high-point areas and around peripheries, otherwise intact and excellent. Light earthen deposits within recessed areas, and great brown patina throughout. Old inventory label on topside of base.