Moai Kavakava | Easter Island Figure

Moai Kavakava | Easter Island Figure

By the Rapa Nui of Easter Island

The skeletal, wooden figures (known as moai kavakava) produced by the Rapa Nui of Easter Island are amongst the most iconic representations of the human form in all of world art. The dreamlike characteristics of Oceanic art generally, and rapa sculpture specifically, greatly influenced the Surrealist movement of the early 1920s. This superb example is to be offered in our 30 November Form Through Time auction.

 

 

EASTER ISLAND FIGURE, MOAI KAVAKAVA
LOT 63 | EASTER ISLAND FIGURE, MOAI KAVAKAVA | EASTER ISLAND | £10,000 - £15,000 + fees

 

View Lot 63 ⇒

 

Their name derives from the famous stone monoliths that dot the island (moai) and the prominent ribcage (kavakava). This emaciated character, whereby not only the ribcage; but the spine, hips and cheekbones are prominently exposed, led to considerable debate as to the meaning behind these enigmatic carvings. It was once thought that they represented starving ancestors, making reference to the islands well known history of ecological and societal collapse in the 18th – 19th century. It is now thought more likely that they represent the bodies of deceased ancestors, manipulated in secondary burial rites.

 

EASTER ISLAND FIGURE, MOAI KAVAKAVA

 

With its perforation to the back of the neck, the present piece was intended to be worn as a large pendant. Accounts from western visitors to Easter Island from the middle of the 19th century onwards record moai kavakava being worn during important ceremonies and dances by both men and women. Indeed, some accounts witnessed as many as twenty figures worn around the body of one individual at a time. When not in use, the figures were kept wrapped in cloth within the home, possibly as protective talismans.

 

EASTER ISLAND FIGURE, MOAI KAVAKAVA

 

Into the 20th century, the dreamlike characteristics of Oceanic art generally, and rapa sculpture specifically, greatly influenced the Surrealist movement of the early 1920s. The German Expressionist Max Ernst was greatly inspired by the moai kavakava, with the heads of the moai featured in the Thursday section of Max Ernst’s collage novel Une Semaine de Bonte. Whilst Andre Breton began collecting Easter Island moai kavakava from the age of fifteen and had amassed a major collection by the time of his death.

 


 

Auction Information

 

FORM THROUGH TIME

Wednesday 30th November 2022 at 2pm

Live Online

 

View the auction catalogue ⇒

 


 

Antiquities

 

Lyon & Turnbull offers four auctions of Antiquities annually; with sculpture from ancient Greece and Rome placed into biannual dedicated sections of our Five Centuries sales and Fine Antiquities offered in our biannual Form Through Time editorial sales. This ensures that the broad range of Antiquities offered at Lyon and Turnbull each reach the correct market.

 

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SPEAK TO A SPECIALIST

 

 

Alex Tweedy

 

ALEX TWEEDY | HEAD OF SALE

0131 557 8844

alex.tweedy@lyonandturnbull.com

 

 

 

 

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