Exceedingly early rare beautiful examples of a female & male portrait figures.
Largely intact however may show signs of ritual loss to lower limbs.
Male Figure 18cm
Female Figure 15cm
Full Provenance below from extensive important 1860s Missionary collection.
Journal and letters of the Reverend Isaac Rooney, F.R.G.S., Methodist missionary in the Pacific islands, 1865-1889 : Fiji, New Britain, the Duke of York Group and New Ireland. Rooney, Isaac, 1843-1931.
In southeastern New Ireland, mortuary rituals involved limestone chalk figures known as kulap . Kulap figures were traditionally kept in ritual houses, and functioned during funerary ceremonies as temporary vessels for the souls of the deceased. Upon the conclusion of the ceremony, the figures were broken, releasing the souls into the realm of the ancestors. Like the uli ceremonies, these rituals are no longer practiced in New Ireland today.
Representing individuals who had recently died, kulap figures were distinctive to southern New Ireland. Used throughout the region, they were created by specialists living in the Rossel Mountains, where the quarries that provided the fine, chalklike limestone from which the figures were fashioned were located. When a family member died, a male relative journeyed to the mountains and acquired or commissioned a male or female kulap, depending on the sex of the deceased. After returning home, the figure was erected, together with other kulap, within a shrine constructed inside a ceremonial building that was surrounded by an enclosure.
The kulap figures served as temporary abodes for the spirits of the dead, which might otherwise wander, causing harm to the living. Only men were permitted inside the ceremonial enclosure and allowed to view the images. However, women often gathered outside the compound to mourn their lost relatives. After an appropriate period of time had elapsed, the figures were removed from the shrine in secret and destroyed or, during the colonial period, often sold to Westerners.
Gunn, Michael Ritual Arts of Oceania, New Ireland in the Collections of the Barbier-Mueller Museum . Milan: Skira, 1997.
Lewis, Phillip "The Future of New Ireland Art." In Artistic Heritage in a Changing Pacific, Philip J. C. Dark and Roger G. Rose, pp. 197–205.. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1993.
Lincoln, Louise, ed. Assemblage of Spirits: Idea and Image in New Ireland. Exhibition catalogue. New York: George Braziller, 1987.
Pitt Rivers Citation;
A Southern New Ireland white chalk figure of an ancestress, her hands joined across her breasts, with projection attached to the feet for mounting in the ground, features of the oval face incised and hair indicated by small squares 18 1/2 in (47 cm) Such figures were carved upon a person’s death, and set up in a temporary shelter for a period of mourning, after which they were usually broken. For the type see Cranstone pl 8d (see illustration)’
Matched on appearance and also suggestion in illustration of support. Note the lot was sold for £180 to Professor J. Millot.
PROVENANCE: From the Collection of; ROONEY, ISAAC (b. Castlecaulfield, co. Tyrone, Ireland, 11 March 1843, d. Adelaide, SA, 22 July 1931). Protestant missionary in the South Pacific.
Isaac Rooney migrated to Australia aged six with his mother and stepfather, who settled in Melbourne. Following his conversion in 1860, he trained for the ministry at Horton College, Tasmania, and was sent in 1865 to be a missionary in Fiji by the Vic-Tas Wesleyan Methodist Conference. He spent 15 years in Fiji, 10 as Superintendent, and 8 in the Bismarck Archipelago, as chairman of the district. He returned to Australia in 1889 and took up appointments as a Methodist minister in SA becoming president of the Conference in 1908. He became a supernumerary in 1910, and in 1911 he visited the Middle East and England, giving many lectures on the Island peoples. Three sons, Stephen Rabone, Frederick Langham and Leslie Davidson became Methodist ministers, the eldest surviving son, (Ray) also being a missionary in the Solomon Islands.
During his ministry conditions in the islands were primitive and dangerous, and many islanders were still cannibals. Supplies, especially medicines, were uncertain and sailing to and between islands hazardous. These conditions brought personal sorrow in the deaths in the islands of two wives and two children, and in the necessity of leaving three other children, including a young baby in the care of a planter's wife. However, devotion to the Christian cause was the mainspring of his life, and he was wholly committed to the saving of souls, constantly reporting in his journal, converts and baptisms, and rejoicing in the subsequent changes in life-style and behaviour, not fully realising the long term results of the radical changing of their whole way of life.
He did much to improve ideas of hygiene, health and literacy, translating hymns and Bible passages, and setting up schools wherever he went. He shared the anti-catholic attitude of his Protestant contemporaries and accepted the Victorian belief that Christianising and civilising were identical. His contribution to the knowledge of island peoples, their customs, beliefs and languages led to his being made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in 1901.
I Rooney, Journal and Letters, ed K B Mather (Fairbanks, 1984); M J Rooney, 'Missions in the Pacific', BA thesis, University of Adelaide, 1960