Gazette Drouot logo print
Lot n° 1528


result :
Not available
Estimate :
Subscribers only

AN IRON WOOD GUARDIAN FIGURE ''HAMPATONG'' Borneo, probably North, Sarawak or Sabah, Malaysia, Iban-Dayak (?), first half of 20th c. H. 170 cm ( o.S.) This expressive, rustically and powerful cut wooden sculpture is fully sculpted from a single piece of ironwood. Although many tree species in the tropics are known as ‘ironwood’, for Borneo this term refers specifically to belian, Eusideroxylon zwageri). This wood is extremely dense and durable and sinks immediately in water. This hampatong represents a mother and child. The child, which touches the mother's nipple, is figuratively only born when the husband has captured a head, as life must first pass before something new can be born. The mother turns her face towards the child and sticks out her tongue in a gesture of ominous defence. It is more likely to be a mother goddess than a real person. The main figure has a traditional topknot. The base is decorated with motifs cut in low relief, combining stylised dragon motifs (aso) and plant forms. This indicates the connection between fertility / harvest and the underworld (the aso is its lord) and the renewal of life, which is the theme of the main scene. The style of the bas-reliefs, which can also be found in tattooing, points to Iban-Dayak (Sarawak), as does the rustic, powerful ‘coarseness’ of the execution. It is a thousand-year-old observation of plant groups that plant growth is promoted by ‘death’ (organic substances). Therefore, the principle of sacrifice should always be understood as a gesture of nourishing the earth and promoting fertility, as the vanished life can be recalled by the underworld deities. Shamans, manang, can control and catalyse this process. Today we would call this process ‘metabolism’ and the utilisation profane as ‘fertilisation’, but the empirical observation that new life arises from death is still indisputable. Hampatong (from patong: Malay ‘statue’) is the generic name for ancestral and protective figures made of hard wood. They are erected by the Dayak groups on Borneo both as memorial sculptures for the deceased at burial sites and as guardians in front of the longhouses. This figure may have been made as a protective figure on the occasion of naming festivals or initiations. From an old German private collection, assembled since the 1950s - Traces of age, partly chipped and with fine age cracks, mounted