Monzino Fiji Oil Dish

A tripod, lenticular, flat, priestly oil-dish sedre ni waiwai which contained sanctified coconut oil taken and rubbed on the priest’s body prior to the ceremony of communing with the ancestors and performing rituals. The large crescent-form handle is carved with a rare form of repetitive triangular motifs reminiscent of shark teeth. The four, square sectioned struts which attaches the handle to the bowl were originally six, however two were obviously cut away in olden times for unknown reasons. Fiji Islands, Polynesia. Vesi wood (Intsia bijuga) with a fine oily patina of age and use. 56.9 x 30 x 8.6 cm. 19th century.

Provenance Ex coll.: Carlo Monzino & Haralabos Melenos, Castagnola, Switzerland. INV. N° 181/4. Acquired Sotheby's Paris, September 30, 2002, African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art - the Jacob Epstein and Carlo Monzino collections, lot 97.

Carlo Monzino (1931-1996)
His collecting passion began with a fascination for Japanese and Indian art when he was in his thirties. He then evolved towards the art of Africa and the Pacific all the while collecting important modern art. He is credited with being one of the first to recognize the importance of Jean Fautrier and was as well a close friend and patron of Andy Warhol. In 1964 with the help of Charles Ratton he was able to acquire most of the outstanding collection of the sculptor and collector Sir Jacob Epstein – in all some 900 pieces ! Carlo Monzino devoted a lot of time and expense towards developing the understanding of primitive cultures, inviting well known academics to give interviews and conferences as well as publishing a scholarly revue "Quaderni Poro".


Literature: Ref.:
Clunie, Fergus: YALO i VITI. Fiji Museum, Suva. 1986.
Ewins, Rod: FIJIAN ARTIFACTS, TASMANIAN MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY COLLECTION. Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart. 1982.
Hooper, Steven & Roth, Jane (ed): THE FIJI JOURNALS OF BARON ANATOL VON HÜGEL 1875-1877. Fiji Museum, Suva. 1990.
Hooper, Steven :FIJI – Art & Life in the Pacific. Sainsbury Reaserch Unit for the Arts of Africa, Oceania & the Americas. University of East Anglica, Norwich, 2016

See the very similar example MAA:Z 3718 in the Museum of Anthropology, Cambridge which has a crescent handle with two panels of carved triangles collected by Sir Arthur Gordon between 1875 and 1880.

See the drawing : « Fiji Jaqona bowls Miss Gordon Cumming » for the various shapes of what Cumming describes as Jaqona (yaqona or Kava) bowls or dishes. There is a constant discrepancy between scholars with some declaring in their publications these lenticular flat dishes as for the drinking of kava while others describe them as oil dishes.

BM registration N° Oc2006,Drg.421. NB : the British Museum describes this drawing as : « … tracings of drawings made by Constance Gordon-Cumming, of objects collected in Fiji by Baron Von Hugel and Sir Arthur Gordon. These objects are now in the Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Whether or not the tracings were made by Constance Gordon-Cumming is unclear. »