Sydney – One of the greatest old New Zealand paintings by leading Kiwi artists Charles Frederick Goldie is expected to reach up to $1.5 million at Smith & Singer’s auction in Sydney on May 2.
More than a century after it was created, Goldie’s 1916 Reverie, Ena te Papatahi, a Ngapuhi Chieftainess, million remains a work of great historical, social, and cultural significance.
Goldie is one the most highly regarded New Zealand artists of late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In 1901 Goldie began to travel and document the Māori people, as well as those that visited Auckland when attending the Native Land Court.
He had great respect for the Māori culture and was devoted to preserving the heritage of Māori people through his art.
His devotion to capturing the fine detail of his sitters ultimately culminated in his death from complications of lead poisoning.
It is reputed that Goldie licked the end of his paint brush to get a finer point.
A recognised expert on tukutuku panels and weaving, hist subject Papatahi was a woman of rank and the niece of Eruera Maihi Patuone and Tāmati Wāka Nene, an influential warrior leader, politician and one of Aotearoa’s most influential Rangatira.
Goldie carefully records his subject’s moko kauae in this painting , showing three deep lines to her upper lip. For New Zealand Māori women, the moko kauae, or traditional chin tattoo, is considered a physical manifestation of their true identity.
It is believed that every Māori woman wears a moko on the inside, close to their heart, and when they are ready, the tattooist simply brings it out to the surface.
By recording the tā moko as faithfully as possible, Goldie ensured that his paintings remained highly important images of ancestors for Māori.
The somewhat romantic but realistic manner of Goldie’s work stems from his academic training at the Acadamie Julian in Paris.
The Māori portraits by Goldie and perhaps to an equal extent, those of Gottfried Lindauer cross the realms of both ethnology and art and created much debate during Goldie’s lifetime about which field they should fall into.
Over time, however, they increasingly became more important as portraits of ancestors for their descendants to appreciate.