Abelam people, Foothills of the Prince Alexander Mountains, East Sepik Province
Papua New Guinea
Archaic early Abelam pieces like this are very hard to find. This male figure is special for a number of reasons. The arched body and curved swept back legs look like the figure is ascending. It has whimsical and quirky qualities but is very sophisticated at the same time. I've found it to be one of those sculptural pieces you can look at under a light from different angles and keep seeing something new.
The surface is layered and encrusted with areas of visible red pigments underneath. The cubistic appendages on the back are highly stylized Cockatoo birds as could also be the projections on the headdress.
This piece is unique as is a miniature version of the oldest known type of Abelam "Wapinyam" (Child of the Yam) large commynity figures.
I found a similar figure dating from before 1930 in Margaret Mead's collection of Abelam art at the American Museum of Natural History (last photo)
Provenance: Chris Boylan, Sydney, Private Canadian Collection, Craig DeLora, New Jersey and Michael Auliso, California.
H: 38 cm (15 inches)