Michael Backman Ltd - Home  

Rare Wooden Ancestor Figure Ritual Wine Server
Ifugao, Luzon, Northern Philippines
early 20th century

height: 35cm

This exceptional example of a carved hardwood wine cup supported by a female ancestor figure in caryatid form comes from the Ifugao people of central
Luzon island in the northern Philippines. It is exceptional for its rarity, sculptural quality and most particularly for its patina, which is dark, lustrous, deep and
well developed.

The Ifugao served food and wine from footed bowls with notched rims. Such bowls also were used on ritual occasions to hold rice wine that was drunk by
presiding priests (Casal, 1981, p. 202) in a ritual or

This example was most probably carved to be used ritually. It features a female figure standing on a carved base. Her arms are stretched above her head to
support a bowl (
duyu) which is balanced on her head. The figure's upper arms and wrists are carved with bands to denote tattoos. The more naturalistic
handling of the figure, its facial features, and so on, suggest an early twentieth century dating when colonial influence saw the Ifugao carvers adopt more
realistic features in their work.

Anderson (2010, p. 171) says that the hardwood used to carve
duyus and other similar items developed superb, dark patinas over time.

Says Anderson (p. 172):

"In some cases, the
duyu is supported by one or more anthromorphic figures. Such examples are extremely rare, and some of the few existing old examples
lack signs of extensive use, a fact that has led to speculation about their actual existence as ritual objects. However, among others, the example collected
during the 1870s (now in the collection of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, Madrid) shows considerable wear and indisputably proves that these
spectacular objects were indeed used as wine servers, and are not mere decorative items."

A wine server of similar form but without the dark patina is illustrated in Anderson (2010, p. 174.) That example was collected in the 1880s and is now in the
Museum fur Volkerkunde, Dresden. It is ascribed to the Kalanguya people, a sub-group of the Ifugao.

The item here is in excellent condition. As can be expected, it has some minor, old, age-elated shrinkage cracks. There are no chips or other losses, and no
repairs.  It stands solidly and in a stable manner.

Afable, P.,
et al, Philippines: an Archipelago of Exchange, ACTES SUD/ Musee du Quai Branly, 2013.
Casal, G.
et al, The People and Art of the Philippines, UCLA Museum of Cultural History, 1981.
Labrador, A.M.T.P., 'Review of
In the Shape of Tradition', Arts of Asia, January-February 2011.
Anderson, E. M.,
In the Shape of Tradition: Indigenous Art of the Northern Philippines, C. Zwartenkot Art Books, 2010.
Palencia, J., 'The dancing gods of Kiangan',
Arts of Asia, January-February 2012.

Provenance: UK art market

Inventory no.: 1981

This Item is available - Ask about this item

Click here to see other tribal items from Southeast Asia.