Gazette Drouot logo print
Lot n° 1524


result :
Not available
Estimate :
Subscribers only

A MANGROVE WOOD SHIELD ''VASEM'' Papua Selatan (New Guinea West, Central, Republic of Indonesia), Asmat H. 169 cm Rounded-oval battle shield of the Asmat from West New Guinea. The shield is carved in low relief with red and white coloured human motifs. It is crowned by a stylised standing human figure or a head with a stylised rudimentary body, which probably represents an ancestor of the owner. The extremities are indicated by clusters of palm branches, which can also be found on the edge of the shield. The reverse of the shield with the integral handle shows a painted symmetrical pattern of white and orange triangles. The two central male figures on the front probably represent warriors or the owner and his father, while the figures on the edges are enemies or prisoners who are ‘incorporated’ into their own clan through sacrifice or headhunting. On many shields, these have been reduced to hook-shaped symbols.For the Asmat, the shield has a special significance among the possessions of the initiated warrior. Frequently encountered roundish shapes can symbolise both fruit and taken heads, which have a very similar symbolism (renewal and fertility). The motifs are not only intended to invoke one's own strength and establish a connection to the ancestors, but also to frighten and weaken the opponent. The style is reminiscent of the north-western Asmat region. Flying foxes (an endemic species of giant bat) or the warrior's nose ornament made of shell discs or boar's teeth, which is the privilege of the successful headhunter, are also popular motifs. The motifs were designed in such a way that only initiated men of higher rank could understand them. The ancestral spirits play an important role in the imagination and art of the Asmat. They are reincarnated in the newborn children. The skulls of the ancestors are sometimes decorated and used as everyday objects, for example as headrests when sleeping. The skulls of slain enemies, on the other hand, are kept in the men's house. Anyone who kills an enemy takes on their name and social duties. This ‘takeover’ is often thematised on the shields. The clothing of Asmat men is often limited to ritual body jewellery, otherwise nudity is common. On festive occasions, the upper beak of the hornbill, a headhunting symbol, adorns the male pubis. The warriors of the Asmat wear martial septum piercings (septum: nasal septum), bipane. These were flat shell plates, up to several centimetres wide, whose shape is reminiscent of the weapons of wild boars. Woven full-body masks are worn during a ritual in which the movement of the masks between the village and the forest is intended to strengthen the bond between the two areas. From an old German private collection, acquired in the 1980s - Minor traces of age and use, partly slightly chipped