Exceptional Pole Club, Rarotonga or Atiu, Cook Islands
Lot 32
Exceptional Pole Club, Rarotonga or Atiu, Cook Islands
Sold for US$ 100,000 inc. premium

Lot Details
Exceptional Pole Club, Rarotonga or Atiu, Cook Islands
Exceptional Pole Club, Rarotonga or Atiu, Cook Islands
'akatara
Carved from the heart (taiki) of ironwood (toa) tree (Casuarina equisetifolia)
length 105 5/8in (268cm)

Provenance
James T. Hooper, London/Arundel, No. 615
Christie's, London, 19 June 1979, lot 174

Published
Phelps, Steven, Art and Artefacts of the Pacific, Africa and the Americas - The James Hooper Collection, Hutchinson of London, 1976, fig. 610

Situated between Samoa and the Society Islands, the Cook Islands are a total area of 240 square kilometers and consist of fifteen islands divided between the northern Cooks, more closely related to western Polynesia, and the southern Cooks, more closely related to eastern Polynesia.

Finely carved works of art--stools, bowls, drums--were used by persons of high rank and prestige. The Cook artists also produced some of the finest weapons of Polynesia, including long serrated clubs, the ultimate symbol of power and prestige for an important person of high rank, most likely achieved by his success in warfare.

These magnificent pole-clubs, according to Steven Hooper (Pacific Encounters - Art & Divinity in Polynesia, 1760-1860, Sainsbury Center for Visual Arts, University of Hawaii Press, 2006: p. 239), "have long been attributed to Rarotonga, but evidence for this assumption is hard to find. Formal analysis and an eye-witness account suggest that these were originally made on Atiu, though they may have found their way to Rarotonga and elsewhere. A number of them (Oldman 2004: pl.31, no. 445c; Phelps 1976: pls 77-8, nos 606; Buck 1944; fig. 179r-s) have collar designs as small figures of the central Cook Islands kind, and where they have 'eye' designs [as in the example presented here] they are of eye and lids, with no additional brow line, which is characteristic of Rarotonga. Others, [including the example presented here] . . . have a fine tip which is carved in exactly the same way as the tips of fan handles of central Cooks origin . . . When Anderson was there [Atiu] in 1777 during Cook's third voyage, he noted: 'The clubs were about six feet long or more, made of a hard black wood launce shap'd at the end but much broader, with the edge nicely scallop'd and the whole neatly polish'd' (Beaglehole 1967: 841)."

Finely stone-carved from the heart of the toa tree (Cauarina equisetifolia), the present work has thirty-four points on each side of the blade gradually expanding outwards and then inwards at the top and coming to a fine point, the collar with two sets of stylized eyes, terminating at the base in a single butt flange; rich, glossy, dark-brown patina.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note: Royal United Services Institute Museum, London, 1953, no. 1007 The James T. Hooper inventory number is 615 and is not illustrated in The James Hooper Collection The length is 105 5/8in (268cm) The club was sold by Christies, London, 19 June 1979, lot 174
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