Rare survival is sale's top lot

9th June 2021

A wooden guardian figure, which is a rare survival from islands plagued by tsunami, has exceeded expectations at auction to sell for £42,500.

The 30 inch high standing figure from Nicobar attracted strong bidding when it came under the hammer at Woolley and Wallis on 8th June.

Originally placed at the entrance of huts to ward off evil spirits, the figure had previously been in the collection of Major Edward Croft-Murray (1907-1980), a noted British antiquarian who spent 19 years at the British Museum. It had remained with the historian’s family since his death some 40 years ago.

“Freshness to the market obviously has an impact on the sale of artefacts such as this, as does a well-established provenance,” explained Oceanic Art specialist, Will Hobbs. “However, the natural phenomena which have regularly decimated these islands also decreases the number of objects such as this which have survived. The 2004 tsunami in particular saw the loss not only of countless lives, but also much of the island’s heritage and historical culture.”

The figure was the top lot in the African and Ocean Art and Antiquities auction on 8th June, with other key pieces including a Marqueses Islands U’u war club, selling for £30,000, and a Nigerian Ibibio mask, identical to one in the British Museum, which sold for £37,500.

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