A Large Asmat Shield, 20th Century.
A beautiful Northwestern area large shield with lovely complex carved design. L142cm W61cm. Ex Dutch Collection John Tenney, and Private Belgian Collection. Featuring a carved head representing a stingray or puru ,4 Shield motifs flying foxes or TAR.
The Asmat believed the flying fox was an aggressor landing trees and eating the fruit which is thought to represent heads.
'Shields are the most powerful expression of asmat art. The ancestors they are named after, Jever in them and give the owner of the shield so much strength and savagery that he feels invincible. The strength of the ancestor and the strength emanating from the symbolic motifs carved into the surface of the shield terrify the enemy and make him flee or throw his weapons. Shields not only have power when used as defensive weapons in combat, but also when used as protection against malicious spirits. The shields can stand close to the door of the family house or on the floor and block the entrance so that the ancestors guard the house and scare away all those who would otherwise try to get in and do harm when the family is gone. The more shields, the more powerful one feels. External influence and the cessation of warfare in the coastal areas where most of the asthmatics live and where the major headhunters previously took place have not yet affected the notion of the spiritual power of the shields. During parties, groups of shields are often placed next to each other. It is through the shields that the various stylistic features can best be exemplified.' - Dirk Schmidt 'Asmat Art'.