Lot 108
  • 108

Maori Pendant, New Zealand

50,000 - 70,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • nephrite
  • Height: 5 1/4 in (13.3 cm)


Armand Arman, New York and Vence
Lance and Roberta Entwistle, London, acquired from the above
American Private Collection, acquired from the above

Catalogue Note

Greenstone, or pounamu, was greatly prized by Maori, who considered it to have mystical qualities. All objects made of pounamu were valued, but hei tiki pendants were particularly treasured heirlooms. They often had their own names, and were passed down within families from generation to generation, gaining in ancestral mana. Interpretations of the significance of the form of these highly recognizable but enigmatic objects are varied and inconclusive.

Pounamu is harder than iron and working with a cord drill and sandstone saws and files a tohunga whakairo, or master-carver, could take several months to complete a single hei tiki. The tohunga whakairo did not set out to create a work of art; he was simply the means by which the gods expressed themselves in material form. The act of creation itself was tapu, or sacred, and subject to certain prohibitions.