Oceania, French Polynesia, Marquesas Islands, Enata peoples, ca. first half of the 20th century CE. A fabulous u'u club, hand-carved from iron wood and meticulously polished to a smooth textured feel. The classic form of this example is comprised of a cylindrical shaft with a narrow vertical slit on one side leading upwards to a highly-stylized T-shaped paddle with a round, lightly-concave top. The neck of the paddle displays a set of highly-abstract janiform faces with dense carved motifs surrounding the lips and cheeks. Each side of the striking head depicts a pair of stylized human faces within radiating coronas as well as a third unadorned face below. Finely carved with raised decorations on both sides with rich, dark-brown matte patina. Size: 5.125" W x 44.2" H (13 cm x 112.3 cm); 44.7" H (113.5 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/313659
A 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; ex-William Cody collection, Palm Springs, California, USA
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Minor abrasions to handle, pommel, and striking head, with softening to some finer details, wear to some raised areas, and light encrustations within some recessed areas, otherwise intact and excellent. Light earthen deposits and fabulous patina throughout. Old inventory label on handle.