14 Nov 2013

Portrait viewed as national treasure up for sale

9:31 am on 14 November 2013

A unique painting described as a national treasure featuring the kaumatua Hone Kawhena is up for auction next week.

The portrait titled Kawhena, by Charles Frederick Goldie is being sold by the International Arts Centre in Auckland and its director says it may be the first of his works to reach the $1 million mark.

Painted in 1892, Hone Kawhena from the Ngati Mahuta tribe is shown wearing a traditional Maori cloak and adornments of pounamu kuru and tui feathers in his hair.

The art dealers' director says it's Goldie's first painting of a Maori kaumatua and is of great historical interest.

Richard Thomson says Goldie usually did his Maori portraits from photos or earlier studies and created multiple versions, but Kawhena is unique because the artist painted from life with Hone Kawhena sitting in front of him.

Hone Kawhena was also known as Johnny Coffin and patrolled the streets of Auckland with a Pakeha constable.

Mr Thomson says in 1851 he was responsible for the arrest of the chief of the Ngati Paoa which led to the invasion of the town by a flotilla of war canoe in response.

He says the left-hand side of Kawhena's moko was not completed, and when Goldie asked Kawhena why he replied it was so painful to endure that he made the tattooist stop before it was finished.

Mr Thomson says there's been huge interest in Kawhena even from overseas buyers, but he expects the painting to remain in New Zealand.