Māori Flute, Pūtōrino Sotheby’s New York | New Guinea & Oceanic Tribal Art Dream Piece #18 Māori Flute, PūtōrinoSotheby’s New York22 November 1998, lot 161 Of all the Māori flutes, pūtōrino, this is my favorite. I love the contrast of the superbly carved faces jutting out from the spare, unadorned body of the flute. The glossy surface and rich dark red/brown patina create a jewel-like quality that sets off the perfection and power of the disembodied heads. The restraint shown on the rest of the flute is what focuses your attention to the gloriously composed faces. Restraint, austerity and spareness are worthy aesthetic traits. Pūtōrino are constructed in two halves lashed together, with the mouth hole at the top end. It is said that these flutes were used in courtship which makes sense as their origin comes from the famous love story of Hinemoa and Tutanekai. Hinemoa was the highborn maiden who fell in love with a man her family disapproved. Tutanekai lived on Mokoia Island in the middle of Lake Rotorua and each night he would play his flute for his lover who lived on the opposite shore. To keep Hinemoa from dashing off to the island her family drug the canoes far up the shore each night. Ultimately one night in desperation Hinemoa tied empty gourds to her body and swam to the island to sleep with Tutanekai. The couple’s descendants still live around Lake Rotorua today. Back in November of 1998 at Sotheby’s New York the flute sold for $200,500—a hefty sum which would equate to $377,000 today. In the last 25 years since this flute has sold the market for top quality Oceanic art has only increased with the focus inordinately focused on pinnacle type pieces such as this magnificent Maori Pūtōrino. If this ever hit the market again I suspect a vicious dog fight would break out forcing the price potentially into the seven figure realm.