Zanesville, ohio, in the Midwest of the United States, seems an unlikely home for a collection of ancient treasures from New Zealand and the Pacific. Zanesville was the home of novelist and fisherman Zane Grey, who wrote about fishing in New Zealand in the 1920s. But it was another Zanesville resident, Eric Young, who collected the artefacts while doing aid work in the Pacific before and after World War II. The 400-piece collection was later gifted to the Zanesville Museum of Art by Eric Young and another collector Alan Gerdau.
Now the Zanesville museum has decided to sell its complete Pacific and Oceanic Collection and replace it with Native American material more relevant to local residents and visitors.
Some of the pieces coming up for auction are believed to be more than 700 years old and most are “pre-contact period”, as experts describe the years before 1769 when Maori first came into contact with Europeans.
One of the rare items up for sale is a yellow pounamu, above, which would have been passed through generations of women who were skilled at weaving, the most prestigious craft of the time. As well as being prized for its rarity and beauty, the pounamu was used for scraping flax to prepare it for weaving.
“A woman who owned this would be very high ranking,” says Neil Campbell of Webb’s auction house. “It would signify that she could marry whomever she wished, even inter-tribally.”
Maori artefacts make up about a quarter of the Zanesville collection. The rest is Pacific and Oceanic material, including rare tribal art, sculptures, weaponry, traditional dress and adornments from Australia, Fiji, Tonga and Papua New Guinea.
The sale is at Webb’s on June 15.
Other items from the Zanesville collection coming up for auction at Webb’s in June are these two 19th century Maori tekoteko figures, estimated to sell for between $10,000 and $15,000 each, and an 18th century Tongan whalebone breastplate, estimated at $20,000-$40,000.
A rare piece of New Zealand colonial history has come up for sale. It is the Burton Cabinet, an elaborate piece of furniture made by Anton Seuffert, New Zealand’s finest cabinetmaker of the era, who crafted the cabinet of inlaid native timbers in Auckland in 1870 for Captain Henry Burton. Auctioneer Dunbar Sloane Jnr believes only about six similar cabinets were made by Anton Seuffert. Buckingham Palace has one, as do Te Papa and the Auckland War Memorial Museum. This one has been on loan to the Canterbury Museum. At auction at Dunbar Sloane in Auckland, it had a pre-sale estimate of $300,000 and was passed in at $240,000. Negotiations for its sale to
a private buyer are continuing.
Among New Zealand historical items in the winter antique auction in July at Dunbar Sloane, Auckland, is this gold-mounted greenstone pillbox, made by Frank Hyams of Dunedin c1890 and expected to sell for $6000 to $8000. Also at auction: a greenstone and sterling silver letter opener and a greenstone snuff container, below, with gold stopper, both 19th century.
This carved whalebone ear pendant, or kapeu, below, dates to the late 18th century and is 10cm long. It is being sold by a vendor whose father was given it when working as a doctor among Maori. Cordy’s estimated its value at $250 to $450; the kapeu was to come up for sale on May 25.
Story: Pam Neville
Photographs: Belinda Merrie