Carved Figure From Humboldt Bay Carved Figure From Humboldt Bay By Dr. Fanny Wonu Veys, Curator Oceania, Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde, Leiden, Netherlandsn This figure is an example of a sculpture that has been associated with the Humboldt Bay and Wakde Island. The color scheme of red, black, white and natural wood; the carving style without arms in slight relief; and the characteristic treatment of the eyes are reminiscent of the “Wakde-Yamna” style area. “Humboldt Bay style” has long been used to refer to the entire northern coastal area of New Guinea stretching from the village of Sarmi in the west and the border between Papua New Guinea and Papua (Indonesia). Kooijman and Hoogerbrugge have argued effectively for dividing the art of the region into three style areas: Wakde-Yamna, Humboldt Bay and Lake Sentani. The first European to see the area was the French explorer Jules Sébastien Dumont d’Urville, who anchored with his ship the Astrolabe on 12 August 1827 at the natural harbor. He named the site “Humboldt Bay” after the German scientist Alexander von Humboldt, whom he greatly admired and who had shown much interest in the voyage of the Astrolabe. It was more than thirty years later, in 1858,that other Europeans went ashore. They were members of the Dutch research party aboard HMS Etna. The professional draftsman of the expedition, C. B. H. Rosenberg, made the earliest surviving image of the spectacular men’s houses, which characterized the area. The Wakde and Yamna islands are known for their dynamic canoe prow ornaments but were also the production centers of carved human figures. This figure displays the typical anchor-shaped nose with pierced septum. It shows particular resemblance to two Field Museum pieces collected between 1909 and 1913 during the Joseph N. Field Expedition, by F. G. F. van Hasselt for A. B. Lewis. It is plausible that the figure was, in the same way as the Field Museum figures, put at the top of the steps leading to the rectangular ceremonial men’s house (darma). F. S. A. de Clerq, commissioner (resident in Dutch) of Ternate in the Moluccas, who inspected the area four times between 1887 and 1888, gives an elaborate description of a darma he saw in 1888 at Yamna: [It was] a building about 10 meters high raised on wooden piles on which crocodile figures had been carved. It had a gable roof, walls at the front and back made of elaborately ornamented vertical boards, and square openings at the front and back serving as doorways. The house had to be entered by means of a notched tree trunk placed against a wall. At the front, the top of the trunk had been carved to form a male figure with a large penis. At the back, the top was carved as a shark’s head with pectoral fins at the back. Kooijman and Hoogerbrugge report that darma formed the center of male-dominated ceremonies and were the depositories of male-owned objects. Most of the figures adorning the men’s houses referenced sexuality with their exaggerated male and female genitalia. The absence of a phallus in this figure suggests that it was possibly removed upon collecting. Elimination of penises was an activity many missionaries engaged in, to which numerous objects in museum collections bear witness. One could also surmise that by the 1920s, when the object was collected, missionary influence had been such that the carver self-censured any sexual reference. Cornelis Pieter Meulendijk with collection circa 1950s. Photo courtesy of Loed van Bussel. Exhibited at the Indianapolis Museum of Art from 1999 until 2009, the piece joined the Tomkins Collection on 15 May 2009 during an “African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art” sale at Sotheby’s New York. It was published in the exhibition catalogue of Ancestors of the Lake (Schmidt 2011: 25). The piece is consecutively associated in inverse chronological order with Loed van Bussel (1970s), the Meulendijk Collection in Rotterdam (ca. 1945–1970s), Leendert van Lier in Amsterdam (1940s–1960s) and the Gereformeerd Zendings Genootschap in Baarn (1920s). The last three need clarification. Born in 1912, as a child Cornelis Pieter Meulendijk became interested in objects from Africa, the Pacific, Asia and the Americas. After the Second World War, during which his small collection was lost, he started assembling a new group of objects. He was always most interested in what he described as the “refined rather than brute pieces.” Leendert van Lier, a painter who had his own gallery at the Rokin in Amsterdam, assembled a collection of ethnographic objects between the 1940s and 1960s. It is most plausible that the piece was first collected by a member of the Utrechtse Zendingsvereeniging (UZV, Utrecht Mission Society). Established in 1859, the UZV sent out missionaries stationed in Teluk Cenderawasih (Geelvink Bay) eastward from 1893 on. The Protestant Mission was set up permanently in the Humboldt area in 1916, with J. Bijkerk. However, other missionaries were urgently needed to serve the areas of Wakde and Yamna. The label accompanying the piece can probably be explained by the fact that the missionary who collected it had been educated at the Gereformeerd Zendingsseminarie (Calvinist Mission Seminary) in Baarn, near Utrecht, which was together with Rotterdam and Oegstgeest, near Leiden, a place where protestant missionaries were prepared for their mission. Acknowledgments I am immensely grateful to Dr. Virginia-Lee Webb and Loed van Bussel for giving me details on the piece’s exhibition and collection history. References Kooijman, Simon and Hoogerbrugge, Jac. 1992. “Art of Wakde-Yamna Area, Humboldt Bay, and Lake Sentani,” in S. Greub (ed.), Art of Northwest New Guinea. From Geelvink Bay, Humboldt Bay, and Lake Sentani, 56–126. New York: Rizzoli. Dunmore, John. 2010. From Venus to Antarctica: The Life of Dumont D’Urville. Richmond, BC/CA: ReadHowYouWant.com Ltd. Clercq, F. S. A. de and J. D. E. Schmeltz. 1893. Ethnographische Beschrijving van de West- en Noordkust van Nederlandsch Nieuw-Guinea. Leiden: P. W. M. Trap. Meulendijk, C. P. 1967. “Verzameling en verzamelaar,” in Cornelis op ‘t Land (ed.), Afrikaanse Sculpturen. Rotterdam: Museum voor Land- en Volkenkunde, Rotterdam. Koelemeijer, Judith. 1997. “Verzameling Van Lier trekt grote belangstelling. Gegarandeerd authentieke collectie etnografica geveild.” Volkskrant, 11 April 1997. http://www.volkskrant.nl/vk/nl/2676/Cultuur/archief/article/detail/508085/1997/04/11/Verzameling-Van-Lier-trekt-grote-belangstelling-Gegarandeerd-authentieke-collectie-etnografica-geveild.dhtml, accessed 29 July 2013. Rauws, Joh. 1919. Onze Zendingsvelden—Nieuw-Guinea. Oegstgeest: Boekhandel van den Zendingsstudie-Raad.