Rare Fern tree figure
New Hebrides, Melanesia, 19th century
Fern tree, vegetal resin
Height : 75 cm
Provenance : Collected by Edgar Aubert de la Rue, 1930’s
Edgar Aubert de la Rue (1901–1991) was a renowned French geographer, geologist, traveller and photographer who was primarily devoted to the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Kerguelen, and Vanuatu. He is the author of Les Nouvelles Hébrides, Iles de Cendre et de Corail, Les Editions de l’Arbre, Montréal, 1945. Towards the end of his career, he donated part of his collection of artifacts to the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, and sold many pieces he collected personally in the New Hebrides to other institutions such as the Geneva Ethnographic Museum, or to fellow scholars and collectors such as Felix Speiser from Basel in 1946.
This superb and extremely rare type of figure is one of the few, very early and small, fern tree sculptures that survived. It probably dates from the late nineteenth century. Its surface is covered with a vegetal resin to protect and preserve the sculpture. We only know a handful of sculptures with this slick blackish patina; there is one mask from Malekula Island published in “L’Art Océanien, Sa Présence”, collection Le Musée Vivant, 1951, page 91 Fig.162. That one was also in the collection of Speiser and then in the Musée de L’Homme.