Lot 1
  • 1

Viti Necklace, Fiji Islands

6,000 - 9,000 USD
11,250 USD
bidding is closed


  • whale tooth
the pendants made of Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) tooth, one pendant inscribed "H.823" in black.


James T. Hooper (1897-1971), Arundel (inv. no. "H.823")
By descent from the above through the Hooper family
Christie's London, June 19, 1979, lot 113
Maureen Zarember, New York
Allan Stone, New York, acquired from the above on April 25, 1982


Steven Phelps, Art and Artefacts of the Pacific, Africa and the Americas: The James Hooper Collection, London, 1976, p. 429, cat. 823

Catalogue Note

Born in 1897, James Thomas Hooper has been called "the last Englishman to form a great collection of Tribal art" (Waterfield 2006: 111).  He acquired his first ethnographic object, a spear, from his father while still a teenager, and shortly afterwards began scouring London antiques shops for such "curios".  After returning from service in the first World War, in which he served as a Signaller in the Royal Army Flying Corps, Hooper continued to pursue his interest in aquiring works of African, Native American, and especially Oceanic art, soon realizing that "...many of the products of primitive man were becoming increasingly difficult to obtain" (Hooper and Burland 1953: 11), and resolved to devote himself to the preservation of these precious objects. With the assitance of Cottie Burland of the British Museum, he published The Art of Primitive Peoplesin 1953; as Burland noted in the introduction, Hooper "felt it a duty to preserve something of the past for the sake of the future.  It is a collection of things of beauty, which will never be made again, of which the ancient inspiration has fled. [...] There is no doubt that the collection is among the finest in private hands in Europe both from the point of view of quality of specimens and of careful documentation."  Hooper opened his collection to the public in 1957: "The Totems Museum" in High Street, Arundel, Sussex was the culmination of his life's work.

Hooper kept a detailed leger cataloguing each object in his collection, numbering each piece sequentially; these "H" numbers are found today on dispersed Hooper objects, many of which have found their way into prominent institutional collections including The British Museum in London and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.