DescriptionSolomon Island (Melanesia)
Pair of large figures
Heights: 22 inches each
This large pair of male and female figures clearly come from the Solomon Islands, although they are in a rather eccentric style which we have not previously encountered. Trading vessels regularly plied the seas of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia, and the distinctive wood carvings produced there were actively collected by those early sailors and merchants as ethnographic curiosities. As demand quickly exceeded the supply of objects made for traditional use, enterprising carvers quickly began to turn out objects intended purely for sale to this early tourist trade. At first these pieces, such as the familiar inlaid Solomon Islands canoe prows and Marquessas Islands stilt steps, were done in relatively pure traditional style, and are distinguishable mainly by their lack of any wear pattern indicating actual use.
But these craftsmen adapted quickly, striving to tailor their products to the tastes and interests of their lucrative new market. The pair of figures presented here, probably dating from the late 19th or early 20th century, reflect that accommodation. While recognizably of Solomon Islands origin, they are more naturalistic, and a large male/female pair such as these were most likely conceived to appeal to the steamer trade. As the maker intended, they are highly decorative and in very good condition with a clear patina of age.
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