David Fergus from Richard Winterton Auctioneers with the portrait by Vera Cummings.

Māori portrait by New Zealand artist Vera Cummings heads to Lichfield auction

A PORTRAIT of a Māori man by a renowned New Zealand artist is heading for auction in Lichfield after spending six decades tucked away in a drawer.

The signed oil on canvas is by Vera Cummings, whose esteemed paintings were among the first to focus on Māori people.

The 20cm by 15cm portrait depicts a man with traditional Māori Ta Moko face tattoos wearing a hei-tiki pendant.

Although undated, it was probably painted in the 1930s or 1940s and is estimated at £1,500 to £2,000 in Richard Winterton Auctioneers’ Antiques & Home Sale on March 11.

The canvas was consigned for sale at The Lichfield Auction Centre following a valuation in person after an initial enquiry via email.

Sarah Williams, senior valuer for Richard Winterton Auctioneers, said: “This is an old heirloom which has been in the family for 60 years, during much of which it has been safely stored in a drawer.

“Beyond that it passes out of knowledge and it’s unclear where the New Zealand connection might have been.”

Valuer David Fergus, pictured above with the painting, added: “Vera Cummings was one of the very first artists to document the Māori people.

“As such this is quite a sought-after painting and it’s likely it will go back to New Zealand.”

The portrait depicts a man with traditional Māori Ta Moko face tattoos wearing a hei-tiki pendant.
The portrait depicts a man with traditional Māori Ta Moko face tattoos wearing a hei-tiki pendant.

Vera (Veronica) Cummings was a New Zealand painter and student of renowned portrait artist CF Goldie.

Born in Thames – a small town on New Zealand’s North Island – in 1891 to parents of Scottish and Irish descent, the family later moved to Hamilton, Tauranga and Auckland.

Something of a prodigy, at the age of 11 Cummings was one of the youngest students to receive a scholarship to attend Elam School of Fine Arts and studied under Goldie.

After graduation, she continued to paint alongside Goldie and frequently depicted the same people, often elderly Māori from a hostel near the Aukland suburb of Parnell.

Cummings herself lived in Parnell near Judges Bay and died in Auckland in 1949, aged 58.

Her paintings continue to sell well at auction; her work ‘Portrait of a Māori Woman’ is part of the collection of the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.

The Māori portrait is Lot 320 in the March 11 Antiques & Home Sale at The Lichfield Auction Centre, starting at 9.30am.

The catalogue can be viewed online via our Auction Dates page a week before the auction.

Viewing in person at the saleroom on Wood End Lane, Fradley Park, takes place between 10am and 4pm on Friday, March 8.

Appointments for free valuations of all types of items can be booked on 01543 251081 or by emailing office@richardwinterton.co.uk.

Free home visits for large collections and house clearance quotations are also available.

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