Fan ( Tahi'i)
Marquesas Islands, Polynesia, 1700-1800
Wood, Pandanus leaflets, coconut fiber
Height : 45 cm
Provenance : Leo et Karin Van Oosterom collection, Amsterdam (1969)
Tahi’i fans from the Marquesas Islands, with their delicately carved handle (ke’e), are among the most beautiful finery in the Polynesian world. Only high-ranking men and women such as chiefs, princesses and high priests, were allowed to possess them: “A sign of peace, a badge of command among warriors, an emblem for chiefs and experts, an ornament for ceremonies and feasts, an object to be gifted or exchanged, the fan retained all its prestige in the mid-19th century” (Ivory, Matahoata. Arts et société aux îles Marquises, 2016, p. 118). Passed down from generation to generation within the same family, they were the work of two castes of specialised artists: the tuhuka aaka tahii, for the infinitely intricate weaving, and the tuhuka ketu kee tahii, for the carving of the handle which was the sacred part of the piece, carved in sperm whale ivory, human bone or hardwood, as is the case here. The handle “generally represents four of their gods figures - two on top and two below, squatting back to back” (Diary of Captain Porter, 1815, cited by Panoff, Trésors des Îles Marquises, 1995, p. 118), and in this piece the wood is covered in an exceptional patina which has softened the reliefs in a very particular way, attesting to its antiquity and prolonged use. This antiquity is further corroborated by the sobriety of the decor, as well as by the welded backs of the tikis also to be found on the example made from sperm whale teeth and acquired in situ between 1844 and 1847 by Georges Louis Vinter, a soldier of the 1st infantry regiment in Nuku Hiva.
Price on request