Before Kandinsky: Abstraction 350,000 BC-1900 AD

 It is natural that we focus on the art of our own time, and often view the contributions of contemporary artists as without precedent. But abstraction has a long history before Kandinsky, Delaunay, Picasso.

In our first online exhibit we focus on abstraction in art and design over the ages, either as intended by those creators or perceived by our contemporary temperament. We are indebted to recent conversations with colleagues John Molloy, Marcy Burns, and Richard Schillay in New York. On January 14th the exhibit GEOMETRIES, American Geometric Abstraction 1880 - 2016​ will open at the John Molloy Gallery, featuring a number of Indian painted parfleches alongside the work of inspired contemporary artists. If you are in New York, we highly recommend the exhibit.



Kayan-Dayak Blowgun Tip

Price On Request

Kayan-Dayak Blowgun tip. Borneo. 

Hand forged iron. Circa late 19th Century

Bonham's sale no. 22484, lot no. 22

15.5 in. / 39.4 cm.



Neo-Babylonian Quartz Colored Cylinder Seal


A fine Near Eastern cylinder seal of black, pink and white depicting four standing figures. 2nd millennium BC. Ex-Olga and Vincent Diniacopoulous Collection, an important Canadian antiquities collections of the 20th century, assembled 1910-1954.

1.18 in. x 0.67 in. / 30 mm. x 17 mm.



African Moba Pair


Moba Male and Female 

Moba  figures stand as sentinels in front of Togo homes and village entrances, and are also placed on intimate family altars, providing protection for those who respect them.  Traditionally Tchitcheri could only be birthed by individuals whose fathers were diviners, the carving considered a highly delicate operation, requiring special prayers and precautions for these ritually charged objects. The male and female Mobas presented here have seen years of exposure, and as they have weathered became more highly valued in the culture. In their minimalist aesthetic, these Mobas merge the best of the "primitive" and the post-contemporary.
These two figures are unusually large, heavy, and old Mobas. Female representations of Moba are particularly rare. We estimate these to be late 19th century or earlier. We have handled many Mobas. These are perhaps the best we've seen in any private collection or museum.
On custom museum metal mounts. Sold as a pair.
The female: 45 in. x 10.5 in. / 106 cm. x 26 cm.

Weight without stand: 31 lbs. 4 oz. / 14.15 kg. 

The male: 42in. x 9.5 in. x / 114 cm. 24 cm.

Weight without stand: 32 lbs. 2 oz. / 15.2 kg.



Mezcal Stone Figure

A small Mescal stone figure carved from dense, hard stone with a hole drilled for use as a pendant.
Guerro, Mexico. Circa 100 BC
3.25 in. / 8.25 cm. 



Mississippi Culture Shell Mask


A Mississippi Culture, Chickamauga style shell mask from Tennessee. Marine shell with long raised nose, small dimple mouth, and drilled eyes. Slight chipping wear around edges. From an old Seattle, WA collection. A simple form, using minimalist components to achieve great sculptural results. Circa 1350-1550 AD. Mounted on a custom stand.
17 in.  x 5.5 in. / 18 cm. x 14 cm.



Egyptian Polychrome Pectoral Sections


Two sections in painted wood from a pectoral collar. Third Intermediate Period, Dynasty XXI-XXV, 1070-712 BC. Decorated in delicate brushstrokes representing blossoms and necklace designs. All excellent original pigment remaining. In a wood presentation case. Ex-Dutch private collection. Ex-Howard Nowes.

Section 1:
11 in. x 3.5 in. / 28 cm. x 9 cm.

Section 2:
12 in. x 3.5 in. / 30.5 cm. x 9 cm. 



Ancient California Indian Charm Stone


A California Charm Stone of unusual diamond shape, hardstone with beautiful banded colors. Circa 1500 or before.

Ex. Anthropos Fine Arts

4.5in. / 11.5 cm.

3.5 oz. / 100 g.



Senufo Janus Head Rest


Senufo Janus seat, Bunjala Region, Ivory Coast. With fork legs inserted into a notch in the body and bound with a rope at one end and a band of rubber at the other, the long body with worn raised oval element for the seat, and baring at each end a lengthy neck with oval animal horse head, grooved upturned mouth, coffee bean eyes and deeply grooved ears, a metal spike inset in the crown of each; fine age encrusted brown patina. "This particular style of animal figure is found only in a very special area that is to say from Bunjali to Kuto in the Bague River Valley. This extremely rare janus figure is ceremonially associated with horses and power amongst the Do subtribe of the Senufo"

Ex: Paul William Knaupp Collection, Ex-Important Tribal Art, Sotheby's New York, November 21, 1996, lot 65.

42 in. x 9 in. x 10 in. / 107 cm. x 22.5 cm. x 25.5 cm.



Early NW Coast Haida Tobacco Mortar


NW Coast Ash & Lime Tobacco Mortar. Clan frog carved on front of bowl Haida Tribe, circa 1750-1850.  There is also a face carved on back of mortar at a later date,  Nootkah or Makah.

9in. x 6.5in. x 3in. / 22.86cm. x 16.51 cm. x 7.62cm. 



California Anchor Stone


A large, thick, and roundish stone with a well worked hole towards the top. This would have been used as an anchor in the great Indian canoes that crossed between Santa Cruz, Catalina and other islands, and the coast. Circa 2000 BC - 1000 AD

Diameter: 8.5 in. / 21.59 cm.

Weight:  11 lbs. (approx.)



Crow Indian Parfleche Case


Crow parfleche case with crosses - Ex. Jay Gates

Circa 1890

26 in. x 12 in. / 66.04 cm. x 30.48 cm. 



Stone Pipe, Mound Builder Culture


A pipe carved out of a single stone, with two apertures adjacent. A stem would have been inserted in the lateral hole.
Circa 1000 AD or before.
3.5 in. x 2 in. / 8.9 cm. x 5.08 cm. 



Bete, Ivory Coast Mask


The Bete, from the Ivory Coast in West Africa produced these masks primarily to be danced in ceremonies associated with the act of war. Both before going into battle and after returning home, these masks would be danced to empower and honor warriors. These masks could also be danced for important events such as funerals or entertaining dignitaries. It is not uncommon for masks in certain African cultures to be multipurpose. Wood and Brass Studs. Circa: late 19th / early 20th century. 

Ex: Jo de Buck, Brussels; Pierre Dartevelle, Brussels

16 in. x 6.5 in. / 40.64 cm. x 16.51 cm.



Lower Palaeolithic "Mask" Handaxe


An English Lower Paleolithic stone, with mask features, and high gloss patination at its edges.

A handaxe made on a flint pebble using a stone hammer to remove flakes from one side & from all around the butt & edges. The flake scars are all well patinated & it can be seen that the flakes were all removed at the same time in sequence. This reduction sequence is proof of the hominid origin of this ancient piece, worked into a tool some 350,000 to 400.000 years ago by Homo heidelbergensis.

The largely unworked side has two natural cavities towards the proximal end & these are unmistakably suggestive of the eyes of a mask or face. It would seem the hominid maker of this stone noticed these cavities and, selected the stone intentionally as they are a striking feature and serve no utilitarian purpose in a handaxe. This side with the "eyes" was left largely unworked. If one makes a diagonal line through the center of the two ‘eyes' the distance from either side of each to the edge of the handaxe is roughly the same. As such the two eyes are almost centered.

Notice also the unusual, creamy, luscious patination of the handaxe's tip, evidence of tens of thousands of years exposure of the stone to the elements.

4.1 in. / 10.5 cm.



An Incan Textile Weaving


A well preserved waistband fragment from a tunic with stepped- diamond geometric design. Likely late Horizon, A.D. 1476-1534. Similar examples illustrated in To Weave for the Sun: Andean Textiles in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston" by Rebecca Stone Miller. This superb textile has a refinement and closeness of weaving that speaks of the high technical as well as artistic achievement of the Incan weavers. Like other Incan textiles, it owes it excellent state of preservation to the unusual climate of the Andes. 

5.5 in. / 13 cm.



A Dan Heddle Pulley


An old wooden Dan Heddle Pulley from Liberia. These pulleys were used to run thread from the top to bottom of looms, and to provide distraction and inspiration to the weaver. 
An abstracted human face with the "legs" completing the torso. Circa late 19th/ early 20th Century. Glossy patina from use. On a custom museum stand.
Ex. Michael Rhodes, NYC. 
Exhibited at "Poulies/Pulleys" Exhibit, Parcours des Mondes, Paris, September 2015, and featured on the cover of the exhibition catalogue.
Height: 7in. / 17.8 cm.



Miniature Syrian Red Stone Idol


An ancient Syrian miniature red stone idol, with rounded bottom, long neck, round head. North Syria. Circa 2500-2000 BC. Head rejoined, otherwise original condition.

From an old English collection, formed more than 50 years ago. Rare.

1.02 in. / 26 mm.



A Cylinder Seal Neo-Assyria


C. 1500-1300 BC depicting sprinting archers

Ex-Malter Galleries, Encino, CA  

0.87 in. x 0.37 in / 22.22 mm. x 9.52 mm.



Exceptionally Large Bering Straits Wooden Effigy


A prehistoric wooden effigy from St. Lawrence Island. Most effigies or dolls are of diminutive size, this one the rare exception. Another effigy, of more usual size is placed next to the piece to show this piece's unusual scale. Male genitalia.  Early Thule culture, circa 1000 AD
12 in. x 1.5 in. x 4in. / 30.48 cm. x 3.81 cm. x 10.16 cm.



Naga Brass Crown, NE India


A Naga NE India crown of brass with spiral headhunting symbols, and trade beads. This would have been worn by a chief or warrior who had taken heads. Circa late 19th century.

6 in. x 6.5 in. x 3 in. / 15.24 cm. x 16.51 cm. x 7.62 cm. 



Nez Perce, Cornhusk Bag


A large cornhusk bag, Nez Perce, Columbia River Plateau. Distinct, intricate wool embroidery design on each side. Fine condition. Early 20th century.

Ex: John Molloy, NYC.  
22.5 in. 17.5 in. / 57.15 cm. x 44.45 cm.


Bembe Janus Mask, DR Congo

Price On Request

A large and refined initiation mask from the Democratic Republic Congo. Ex. Henri Kamer, Paris;

Bonham's, Sale no. 22484, lot no 8

19 in. x 13 in. / 48.26 cm. x 33.02 cm.




A Painted Ceramic Spouted Bowl, Middle Bronze Age, Cyprus


A beautiful painted ceramic bowl with ancient dark red pigment on lighter red background from ancient Cyprus. A well formed spout, and a hole at the other end for attachment. Excellent original pigment and a 19th century collection number. Intact with no apparent repairs. From a bronze age culture under domination at the time by the Assyrians, and heavily influenced by neighboring Minoan culture on Crete.

A piece showing less fine paint is illustrated, plate 22, The Art of Ancient Cyprus, Desmond Morris, Phaidon Press, Oxford. Ex-Howard Nowes.

Circa 1800 BC.

10.25 in. x 3 in. / 26 cm. / 8 cm.





Large, Superb Old Naga NE India Headhunter Granary Door


A large granary door from Nagaland, NE India that encompasses much of the classic iconography of headhunter culture.

Two carved taken heads, large, spreading mithun horns, 34 hornbills, and two dao holder representations at the bottom. Two panels were joined to make this monumental piece. Sinew fastening throughout.

From the Tangkul Region, late 19th/ early 20th century. Ex-Mark Johnson.

78.5 in. x 34 in. x 6 in. / 199 cm. x 86 cm. x 15 cm.

Weight: 65 lbs. / 29.5 kg. (aprox.)



Incan Textile Weaving


A well preserved waistband fragment from a tunic with an iconic deity figure woven in the design. Likely late Horizon, A.D. 1476-1534. Similar examples illustrated in To Weave for the Sun: Andean Textiles in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston" by Rebecca Stone Miller. This superb textile has a refinement and closeness of weaving that speaks of the high technical as well as artistic achievement of the Incan weavers. Like other Incan textiles, it owes it excellent state of preservation to the unusual climate of the Andes.

4.5 in. / 11 cm.



Pre-Columbian Taino Curved Ax


A Taino, dark olive-green, monolithic, stone-handled, curved axe from the ancient Antilles. A stone which was expertly carved with a slightly curving axe head and then polished to a smooth surface. By curving the axe it could be used an axe or as a gouging implement as the worn underside suggests. The smoothness and polish of the piece, however, suggests that this was more than an ordinary utilitarian object. Excellent condition with small ancient chip at one end. Similarly shaped stone axe illustrated in "Twenty-Fifth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology", Washington, D.C., pl xv. Circa 1000-1500 AD.

7.25 in. x 2.75 in. x 1.75 in. / 18.5 cm. x 7 cm. x 3 cm.

Weight: 14 oz. / 400 g.



Dogon Door Lock, Fine Etchings


A finely wrought Dogon door lock of anthropomorphic form. Well etched designs, glossy surfaces, a standing figure in the unmistakeable image of a totemistic figure, hand-wrought iron components. These Dogon locks have been heavily reproduced. To hold this piece in one’s hands is to know what the real thing feels like. Mounted on a custom museum stand. 

15in. x 11.25 in. / 38 cm. x 28.5 cm.

Weight: 1 lb. 12 oz. / 0.80kg.



Pennsylvania Dutch Protective Board


An early Pennsylvania Dutch, America painted protective hex board. A large painted panel, polychrome. The surface is pitted with marks made by hail. A perfect "contemporary" painting, and good luck piece. 19th century.

52 in. x 38 in. / 132 cm. x 96.6 cm.



Copper Snake Currencies, Congo


A set of three rare, museum quality copper "snakecurrencies of spiral form from the Congo. These were associated with tribes of the Lake Leopold II Region, including the Mongo/Ngongo/and Lyembe peoples. 

These are thick and sturdy, hand forged, with a high concentration of native copper. They are circa 1900 or earlier, and are mounted on metal museum stands. Ex. Joel Cooner.

Coil 1: 36in. / 91.44cm. 
Coil 2: 39in. / 99.06cm. 
  Coil 3: 42in. / 106.68cm. 


Enormous Lower Paleolithic Handaxe


A superb handaxe from Sahara, of a size far larger than would have proved useful as a purely utilitarian item. It can only be surmised that these large handaxes, some even larger than the present example, functioned symbolically at some level. 
Circa: 700,000 - 300,000 BC
13 in. x 6 in. / 33.02 cm. x 15.24 cm.