Description & Technical information

A superb ray-skin rasp or file commonly used throughout the Pacific for smoothing wood, or for grating sandalwood to perfume coconut oil. The skin of sharks and rays is covered in placoid scales, or dermal denticles. These are very similar to mammalian teeth; the outer layer being covered with a hard enamel-like substance. These scales give shark and ray skin its hard, rough texture, ideal for smoothing wood. The rasp here is carved to represent the shape of the sting ray itself. The skin is applied wet to the wood handle and takes its form definitively as it dries.

Date:  19th/20th century
Period:  1850-1900, 19th century, 20th century
Origin:  Solomon Islands, Melanesia Oceania
Medium: Wood, Raw skin of the stingray
Dimensions: 39.5 cm (15¹/₂ inches)
Provenance: Ex Coll. : John-Charles (Jack) Edler c. 1996; Jim Elmslie, Australia; Elizabeth Pryce, Sydney. Sold Sotheby’s, Paris, l’Art de Vivre en Océanie - collection Elizabeth Pryce, 10 octobre 2018, lot 35. An old unidentified number : 102(or 3)D is painted on the front of the handle.


Literature: See an identical example in the British Museum (N° Oc1944,02.1203) ex Harry Beasley.
Categories: Tribal Art