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Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri

Emu Ceremonial Dreaming - 1972

powder pigment on composition board
91.5 x 60.5 cm
Price Realised: $95,000.00

LOT #42


Painted at Papunya, NT in early 1972
Presented in Sotheby's, Important Aboriginal Art, Melbourne, 24/06/2002, Lot No. 75 and offered as Untitled (Rainmaker Bird Dreaming)
Private Collection, USA

Purchased directly from the artist by Mr. Keith Smith, a patrol officer with the Northern Territory Administration in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Bears original owner's name verso.


Cf. A sketch of this painting appears in Bardon’s, Papunya: A Place Made After the Story (2004) on page 385. Bardon here has attributed this painting to Long Jack Phillipus Tjakamarra with the title Emu Ceremonial Dreaming.

Cf. For a related work with similar imagery created by Leura's clan brother during the same period see The Art of Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri by Vivien Johnson, 1994 Craftsman House, plate 3.

Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri was the close cousin brother of Clifford Possum. They grew up in the same house hold under the sharp eye of Tim’s father, One Pound Jimmy Tjungarrayi and shared the country around Mount Allan and Napperby Cattle Stations. Both men were highly educated in the tribal customs and rituals of the region and when Geoff Bardon started buying painting from the senior lawmen in Papunya, both men realised an opportunity.

This very early board was first purchased by Northern Territory Administration Patrol Officer Keith Smith and referred to then as Rainmaker Bird Ceremony. It was painted in February 1972, at the same time as its sister painting, Clifford Possum’s Emu Coroboree Man, the first painting Possum painted in the Papunya shed specifically for Bardon.

There are many other examples to confirm that Tim Leura often created motifs, compositions and graphic elements that Clifford in turn used in his own work. Leura taking on the role of creative director and Possum following up with a stronger and more conceptual graphic representation. Comparing the two paintings, the similarities of the dancing figure are obvious. The body paint elements are identical as are the pubic feather belt, the behind the back emu tjurunga and similar emu feather capped headdresses. The emu nests are also displayed, the male emu is the guardian and protector of the eggs on the nest and the birds kneeling position is indicated in both pictures. Despite its previous attribution by Sotheby’s as Untitled (Rainmaker Bird Dreaming) this is most definitely a depiction of an Emu Dreaming. The object being held behind the performers back bares large Emu footprints. Also the footprints in this work are most definitely Emu. This is confirmed when the Emu tracks arrive at various roundels and the Emu ‘kneels’ on the rear of its legs, leaving elongated furrows in the sand.

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