Lot: 310

Stilt step "tapuva'e"

Marquesas Islands

Provenance Size Hammer price
Johann F. Gustav Umlauff, Hamburg, Germany
Ernst von Sieglin (1848-1927), Stuttgart, Germany
Linden-Museum, Stuttgart, Germany (1905)
German Private Collection (1965)
Alexander Kubetz, Munich, Germany
H: 15.6 inch 11000 EUR

wood, handwritten inventory no. "49649. Markesas. E.Sieglin.", base

According to U. Menter, the Linden-Museum received this "tapuva'e" stilt in 1905 as a gift from the patron Ernst von Sieglin, who gave the museum an extensive collection acquired from J. F. G. Umlauff. It was handed over by the Linden-Museum in exchange (to an unknown person) on 28 July 1965.

These stilt steps were attached to wooden poles ("totoko") up to two metres long with braided coconut strings. The entire stilts known as "vaeake" were worn in pairs and are usually carved with "tiki" figures.

Performances with stilts were very popular in the Marquesas. Langsdorff reported in 1813 that "one of the favourite amusements among [Marquesans] is running on stilts [...] At their great public festivals they run [...] for wagers, in which each tries to cross the other, and throw him down; if this is accomplished, the person thrown becomes the laughing-stock of the whole company. We were the more astonished at the dexterity shewn by them as they run on the dancing-place, which, being paved with smooth stones, must greatly increase the difficulty."

The performances took place at important ceremonies, such as initiation ceremonies, weddings, as well as at burials for chiefs and priests. Contests between champions of tribes constituted the central feature of one of the great memorial feasts for the dead.