Middle Sepik River Suspension Hook-New Guinea Art-Oceanic Art
The figurative suspension hooks of the Middle Sepik River are icons of New Guinea art. They are some of the first things collected on the early German expeditions and are one of the most common made for sale item on the river to this day. As such, they are far from rare. But if you take the time to sort through the genre and really look at what makes a great one, I think you will appreciate the beauty and quality of the present example. It is small where the hook form is almost as large as the figure itself. The head is well composed with very good remains of paint and is almost as large as the entire body. The nose and ears are of course pierced as string and shell decoration was once attached. The junction of the hook and feet show extensive wear and patina from the string bags that held ritual paraphernalia were suspended from the rafters safely away from the eyes of women and children. On the back of the head is the lug that allowed the piece to be tied to the ceiling. Fashioned as a tiny mudfish it too has extensive wear and patina exactly where it should. I love the relief carved spirals on the shoulders thick with layers of white pigments. The piece comes from a Rhode Island private collection, dates to the late 19th century, stands 15 ½” (39.3 cm) in height.