When James Cook visits Hawaii in 1778, the territory is divided. He meets Kalani'opu'u, the king of Kona district. In the following year a violent quarrel with that king results in the murder of the captain. Kalani'opu'u died in 1782, leaving the political power to a son and the religious power to his nephew Kamehameha who thus became the high priest of the god of war Ku also known as Ku Ka'ili Moku.
With this terrifying support Kamehameha manages to conquer the entire territory of Hawaii and starts a dynasty that will last until 1872. He builds for Ku large temples populated by statues with various ritual roles.
A complex social system named Kapu based on taboos protected the elites against middlemen and slaves. When Kamehameha dies an octogenarian in 1819 his favorite wife becomes queen and regent. Women had in the Kapu a subsidiary role that did not please the new regent. She forces the young Kamehameha II to abolish Kapu and to destroy temples and idols. English travelers will manage in the 1820s to collect a few pieces that escaped the iconoclasts, so being the ultimate symbols of a frightening pagan mythology.
On November 21 in Paris, Christie's sells as lot 153 a 53 cm high statuette of Ku made during the reign of Kamehameha I. It had been detached from a column on which it had served as a guardian in a temple or a necropolis.
The head is oversized above the muscular body whose attitude is powerful. The broad mouth shaped as a horizontal eight is fitted with teeth throughout its perimeter in an expression of total ferocity that suited Kamehameha I's ambitions.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's.
SOLD for € 6.3M including premium