Quality and quantity at Lempertz
Brussels, 20 January 2020
No less than 356 objects or groups of works of art from Africa, the Pacific and the Americas will be offered for sale by the German auction house Lempertz on 29 January starting at 2 p.m. at its Brussels branch in Rue du Grand Cerf. Most of the pieces put up for sale come from prestigious collections of primitive art, and the great tutelary figures of the discipline, such as Philippe Guimiot, Charles Hug, Leo Stappers and Giovanni Battista Belzoni, will undoubtedly bring a guarantee of quality to this first session of the year at Lempertz.
Estimated between 15,000 and 20,000 euros, a Jaraï funerary statue (lot 356), collected by Guimiot in the early 1970s in Vietnam, is one of the leading figures of this sale, along with two totems brought back by the Belgian merchant from the islands of Babar and Leti (lots 354 and 355, estimated between 10,000 and 15,000 euros), located in the Indonesian archipelago of the Moluccas. “After returning from his stay in Africa, Philippe Guimiot made several trips to Southeast Asia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Formosa and Vietnam, from where he brought back works of art that collectors at the time were not used to seeing on the market, in particular these Jarai figures,” explains Tim Teuten, one of Lempertz’s specialists who worked on the sale. “These statues were erected around the grave of a deceased person in a final farewell ceremony, sometimes months or even years after burial. After this ceremony, the spirit of the deceased was supposed to join the other spirits; the grave and its ritual ornaments were then left to nature.”
A group of eleven Ivory Coast Dan masks from the collection of Swiss artist Charles Hug (lots 27 to 37, estimated between 600 and 6,000 euros) will also pass under the hammer of auctioneers Henrik Rolf Hanstein and François Tajan on 29 January. “All the masks in his collection were probably acquired in Paris between 1929 and 1932, and Hug is known to have attended the sale of the Georges de Miré collection in Drouot in 1931,” said Tim Teuten. “When he returned to Switzerland in 1934, the artist does not seem to have collected any other masks afterwards, but those purchased in his youth inspired him throughout his career and left their mark on his work, in which portraiture plays an important role.”
A group of six Songye figurines (lots 154 to 159, estimated between 1,000 and 5,000 euros), collected in Congo by Dutch priest Leo Stappers in the 1940s and 1950s, is also being auctioned in Brussels. “Published in 1964, the thesis of this graduate in Bantu languages, who was a teacher at a primary school in the province of Kasai and then at a secondary school in Kamponde, is considered to be the first Songye grammar book,” Lempertz recalls. Other major African sculptures in the sale catalogue include two pairs of Wum doorpost brought back from the Grassfields region of Cameroon (lots 116 and 119, estimated between 1,500 and 3,000 euros), as well as a house door nearly three metres high, carved with spider motifs (lot 118, estimated between 1,500 and 2,000 euros) and a drum strongly marked by erosion (lot 117, between 5,000 and 8,000 euros).
A rare drawing by Italian explorer and Egyptologist Giovanni Battista Belzoni (1778-1823), presenting the tomb of one of the kings of Benin, should not fail to interest lovers of African history, in that this piece (lot 103, between 3,000 and 5,000 euros) is considered to be the only existing drawing of Benin City (today in Nigeria) before 1890. In the Americas and Pacific Arts section, a group of Hawaiian artefacts, including three royal sceptres (kahili) made of tortoise shell rings, bone and ivory (lots 327 and 328, estimated between 2,000 and 6,000 euros), are also on display.
Lots will be on display from 22 to 28 January from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Sunday 26 January from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.) at Lempertz, 6 rue du Grand Cerf, Brussels. For more details: www.lempertz.com