A pair of wooden figures created by First Nations carvers on the British Columbia coast in the 19th century are being auctioned today as part of a major sale of aboriginal art in France, reports Postmedia News.
The figures are about 85 centimeters tall and show two people squatting on rectangular bases. They are expected to sell for $60,000 during today’s “African & Oceanic Art” auction being held by Christie’s in Paris.
The figures originate from one of many Kwakiutl communities, what is today’s Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation, at the northern end of Vancouver Island. Postmedia News reports that the figures were acquired there in the late 1800s or early 1900s by an unscrupulous American collector named D.F. Tozier.
“It was commonly reported that Tozier had accumulated much of his mass of material by theft or ‘by the exercise of a show of force and authority,’” said the late Douglas Lowell Cole, a Canadian historian and history professor at Simon Fraser University, in his 1995 book Captured Heritage: The Scramble for Northwest Coast Artifacts.