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Bruce Frank Primitive Art
New York City, NY
+1 917 733 9589

Early and very rare Ancestor Panel

Toba Batak, Samosir Island, Sumatra, Indonesia. 19th-early 20th century

Provenance: Ben Tursch, Brussels, collected in the early 1970’s. By descent to family member.

The traditional architecture of the Batak is often elaborately decorated with carved panels and sculptural elements. The most common sculptural element found on structures is the large singa heads which flank either side of the building. The architectural panel offered here is a much rarer type, seldom found and most likely adorned the home belonging to a chief or a descendant of a tribal ruler. An example of one such house is published in “Tobaland the shreds of tradition” by Jean Paul Barbier. In the early 1980’s Barbier traveled to Samosir Island, in search of the ancestral home of the Batak tribal leader Parmonangan; the home was first photographed in 1938 by P. Voorhoeve. Unfortunately, during his trip, Barbier discovered the original home was no longer standing, and was most likely rebuilt in the 1940’s. The façade of the home had three panels with human figures carved in high relief. The pair of figures above the larger female, illustrated here, appears to be similar to the present example; except that upon closer examination it becomes clear the one offered here was made at a much earlier date. This panel is clearly of better workmanship than the examples photographed by Barbier. The modeling of the head and face in particular is very well done, its expressive open eyes and its pinched mouth, the lack of European adornment, plus the presence of organic pigments and Reckitt’s Blue powder are all signs it was created at a much earlier period. The figures Barbier photographed are dressed in western clothes and the modeling of the bodies and faces lacks the sensitivity that the great early master artists were able to achieve in their work.

Height: 23 ½ in / 59.7 cm

Photographs 53 and 57, by Jean Paul Barbier, from “Tobaland: the shreds of Tradition”,1983.

 

Early and very rare Ancestor Panel

Toba Batak, Samosir Island, Sumatra, Indonesia. 19th-early 20th century

Provenance: Ben Tursch, Brussels, collected in the early 1970’s. By descent to family member.

The traditional architecture of the Batak is often elaborately decorated with carved panels and sculptural elements. The most common sculptural element found on structures is the large singa heads which flank either side of the building. The architectural panel offered here is a much rarer type, seldom found and most likely adorned the home belonging to a chief or a descendant of a tribal ruler. An example of one such house is published in “Tobaland the shreds of tradition” by Jean Paul Barbier. In the early 1980’s Barbier traveled to Samosir Island, in search of the ancestral home of the Batak tribal leader Parmonangan; the home was first photographed in 1938 by P. Voorhoeve. Unfortunately, during his trip, Barbier discovered the original home was no longer standing, and was most likely rebuilt in the 1940’s. The façade of the home had three panels with human figures carved in high relief. The pair of figures above the larger female, illustrated here, appears to be similar to the present example; except that upon closer examination it becomes clear the one offered here was made at a much earlier date. This panel is clearly of better workmanship than the examples photographed by Barbier. The modeling of the head and face in particular is very well done, its expressive open eyes and its pinched mouth, the lack of European adornment, plus the presence of organic pigments and Reckitt’s Blue powder are all signs it was created at a much earlier period. The figures Barbier photographed are dressed in western clothes and the modeling of the bodies and faces lacks the sensitivity that the great early master artists were able to achieve in their work.

Height: 23 ½ in / 59.7 cm

Photographs 53 and 57, by Jean Paul Barbier, from “Tobaland: the shreds of Tradition”,1983.

 

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