First Arts: Inuit & First Nations Art

May 28, 2019

LOT 74

Lot 74

EARLY PUNUK CULTURE

EARLY PUNUK CULTURE
Lot 74 Details
EARLY PUNUK CULTURE, Bering Sea, St. Lawrence Island, Alaska or Chukotka

HARPOON COUNTER WEIGHT (WINGED OBJECT)

ivory
c. A.D 600-800
3.125 x 6 x 1.125 in — 7.6 x 15.2 x 30.5 cm

Estimate $2,500-$3,500

Realised: $3,840
Price Includes Buyer's Premium ?

Lot Report

Additional Images
EARLY PUNUK CULTURE
  • EARLY PUNUK CULTURE
  • EARLY PUNUK CULTURE
  • EARLY PUNUK CULTURE
Provenance:

Bill Johnstone Collection, U.K.; Alaska Shop, NYC

Note:

Harpoon counterweights (or “winged objects” as they are often called) counteracted the weight of the harpoon’s heavy ivory head, foreshaft and socket piece. Attached to the butt end of the harpoon, they also acted as stabilizers. Counterweights were used from Okvik times right through to the end of the Punuk Period and their styles changed considerably over time. They are remarkably elegant objects, with both their form and decoration highly suggestive (and symbolic) of their important function.

William Fitzhugh synthesizes an evolution in style and meaning for the “winged object” (see reference pp. 182-185). We would suggest that our example fits the style for the Early Punuk Period, just past OBS III. It’s a transitional design, relying far less on engraved pattern for its symbolic meaning and far more on sculptural form. While most scholars (including Fitzhugh) suggest that all animal references disappeared with the new shape and lack of engraving, we see clear naturalistic bird form – in fact perhaps even a double-headed bird form – in the sculpture itself. This “winged object” is perhaps more literal and less symbolic, but it is unarguably very elegant. The Middle Punuk design of counterweight is more radically stylized, and the Late Punuk “turreted objects” have a completely different look.

References: for illustrations of similar works see William Fitzhugh et al, Gifts from the Ancestors: Ancient Ivories of Bering Strait (Princeton Univ. Art Museum/Yale Univ. Press, 2009), pp. 147, 184-185. See also Henry Collins et al, The Far North: 2000 Years of American Eskimo and Indian Art (National Gallery, Washington, 1973) p. 19.


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CONDITION DETAILS

For condition information please contact the specialist.

LOT 74
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About Condition Ratings

  • 5 Stars: Excellent - No discernable damage, flaws or imperfections
  • 4 Stars: Very Good - Minor flaws or imperfections visible only under close inspection using specialised instruments or black light
  • 3 Stars: Good - Minor flaws visible upon inspection under standard lighting
  • 2 Stars: Fair - Exhibits flaws or damage that may draw the eye under standard lighting
  • 1 Star: Poor - Flaws or damage immediately apparent under standard lighting (examples: missing components, rips, broken glass, damaged surfaces, etc.)

Note: Condition ratings and condition details are the subjective opinions of our specialists and should be used as a guide only. Waddington’s uses due care when preparing condition details, however, our staff are not professional restorers or conservators. Condition details and reports are not warranties and each lot is sold “as is” in accordance with the buyer’s terms and conditions of sale. In all cases the prospective purchaser is responsible for inspecting the property themselves prior to placing a bid.