Asmat, Irian Jaya, 1800-1900 AD
Wood, pigment, nail
Height : 65 cm
Collected by the Fathers of the Sacred Heart, Tillburg
Michel Thieme, Amsterdam
John et Marcia Friede collection, Rye
This exceptional sculpture - one of John Friede's favorite piece in his collection- was certainly attached behind the neck of a warrior during some ritual dance, or throughout the head-hunting expeditions.
Depicted in the original stance of the founding ancestors (Friede, New Guinea Art, Masterpieces from the Jolika Collection of Marcia and John Friede, 2005, No. 517), this figure is typical of the rare corpus of the most archaic Asmat creations, as seen in the two statues held at the Museum voor Volkenkunde in Leyden, acquired before 1913 (inv. No.1971-989 and 1971-986). In this piece, human representation is stylized in the extreme: although the head is perfectly identifiable, the body is much more enigmatic, evoking that of a praying mantis; classic iconography for the Asmat. The pared-down outline of this structure is accentuated by the use of ochre pigments enhancing the piece in certain places. Although it is quite similar to the figure from the former Pierre Matisse collection (Sotheby’s, New York, 13 May 2011, No. 169) and to the one that belonged to John and Marcia Friede (No. 517), it differs from them in its striking abstraction, a testament to a unique artistic vision.