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Bruce Frank Primitive Art
208 W 83rd St NYC
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Betel Mortar

Murik Lakes, Coastal Sepik River, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea
19th-early 20th century

Provenance: Kleier collection, Munich, acquired in the 1960’s. Published: East of Borneo, 2019, fig. 36

Archaic in style, this Betel Mortar is a superlative example from the Murk Lakes. This small, cup-like object would have been used to aid in chewing betel nut and was also a mark of authority. The bowl of the mortar is supported by an ancestral or spirit couple, depicted in a standing position. The male and female figures are intense and express raw power. Also of note, each figure has four hands, a very unique feature to be found in New Guinea sculpture. The surface of the mortar is well worn, suggesting heavy use.

Betel Mortar

Murik Lakes, Coastal Sepik River, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea
19th-early 20th century

Provenance: Kleier collection, Munich, acquired in the 1960’s. Published: East of Borneo, 2019, fig. 36

Archaic in style, this Betel Mortar is a superlative example from the Murk Lakes. This small, cup-like object would have been used to aid in chewing betel nut and was also a mark of authority. The bowl of the mortar is supported by an ancestral or spirit couple, depicted in a standing position. The male and female figures are intense and express raw power. Also of note, each figure has four hands, a very unique feature to be found in New Guinea sculpture. The surface of the mortar is well worn, suggesting heavy use.