U’U war club
U’U war club
Height: 58 ¼ in. (148 cm)
Ex private collection
Ex Sotheby’s, London, December 3, 1984, lot 61
Ex Galerie Lemaire, Amsterdam
Ex Abraham Rosman & Paula Rubel, New York,
acquired from the above on July 21, 1989
Grand Palais Ephémère, Paris
26 Nov. - 5 Dec. 2021
In 1900, Paul Gauguin observed: « In the Marquesan especially there is an unparalleled sense of decoration. Give him a subject even of the most ungainly geometrical forms and he will succeed in keeping the whole harmonious and in leaving no displeasing or incongruous spaces. The basis is the human body or the face, especially the face. One is astonished to find a face where one thought there was nothing but a strange geometric figure. Always the same thing, yet never the same thing » (see The Sculpture of Polynesia, Allen Wardwell, the Art Institute of Chicago, 1967, p. 41).
Carol S. Ivory notes in Adorning the World: Art of the Marquesas Islands (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2005): « Warfare was an integral part of Marquesan life. Weapons included slings, spears and war clubs made of ironwood, a heavy, dense wood the Marquesans called toa, which was also the word for "warrior." One type of club, the u'u, and effective weapon in hand to hand combat, also served as a symbol of prestige for chiefs and warriors. »
The sculpture shown here is an exceptional, ancient example of u’u club. The upper section features a series of two tiki heads carved in relief. An incised décor of radiating motifs circle the faces. Below the crossbar (partially restored), another carved tiki can be seen, decorated with refined, geometric motifs.
The representations of the tiki heads convey an intense sense of power and strength. The tattoo marks below the faces add refinement and grace to the sculpture.