Last week a beautiful sculpture of a Native American chief found by chance in Rye Town Hall sold for £120,000 at Sotheby’s. The bust is of Aysh-ke-bah-ke-ko-zhay, a powerful leader of the Ojibwa people, otherwise known as Flat Mouth, an English translation of Gueule Platte as he was called by French traders.
The bust is a variant of another which is on display in the US senate. Aysh-ke-bah-ke-ko-zhay was part of a Native American delegation from the Midwest which visited Washington DC to negotiate land settlements in 1855. At this time he sat for the sculptor Francis Vincenti.
The sculpture’s final sale price was six times the estimate of £15,000-20,000.
How the bust found its way to Rye, where it was misidentified as a portrait of Dante, is a mystery. There is a letter in the US Senate archives from 1866 which refers to a “British Minister” who showed an interest in busts of Native Americans. Did he buy or commission this one and bring it back to the UK? But why Rye?
So what might this windfall be used for? We asked the Town Council and have received the following reply:
“The net proceeds (£111,360) are going into a ‘Flat Mouth’ Earmarked Reserve and will remain untouched in the short term. There has been no discussion on what they might be used for. Possible uses will become apparent during the preparation of next year’s budget (2020-21) – a draft of which will be considered at the January 27 Council meeting.”
Like many councils, town or district, Rye has seen its reserves steadily depleted over recent years, and careful consideration will be given to any immediate uses for the funds.
Image Credits: Sotheby's .