A rare, pre-Treaty of Waitangi portrait of a Māori Chief, has been secured by a prominent New Zealand public collection.
In the year’s final Important Paintings & Contemporary Art auction on Wednesday 29 November, Mossgreen-Webb’s sold what is arguably most significant work of historical importance to be presented at auction in recent years. Atay Chief of Otargo (sic), New Zealand, a drawing by Charles Rodius dating from 1835, sold to a public collection in New Zealand for a record price for just over NZ$158,000.
This portrait is the only work by the artist ever to be offered publicly in New Zealand. Its release on to the market comes at a time of unprecedented interest in the early European Pacific, with London’s Royal Academy exhibition, Oceania, featuring the richest collection of Māori and Pasifika artefacts ever displayed, opening in September next year.Passed by descent to its present owner, this portrait work relates to a folio of 18 portrait drawings in the British Museum by Charles Rodius (1802–60) a German-born artist who studied art in Paris, was transported to New South Wales in 1829, where he remained until his death.The work is particularly remarkable because it shows a young Māori chief in the years prior to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. Also distinctive is the full, carefully recorded facial moko which suggests the youthful Atay was already an exceptional and fearsome chief.Webb’s Head of Art, Sophie Coupland comments, “Rodius’ masterful drawing conveys the dignity and importance of the sitter. It’s been a privilege to present a work of such historical and artistic significance for sale, and we are absolutely delighted to have secured an excellent home, where it will be on view to the public, here in New Zealand.