6 Seated bulul from Kiangan, 67 cm H carved in an elegant and archaic style, with a light patina of rice wine and sacrificial blood. The gently curving surfaces define the essential shape and outline of the head and body in a graceful pose. Excessive decoration is avoided; many features such as the ears, eyes and mouth, the hands and feet are reduced to simple, even minimal details. This figure is austere and abstract, but nevertheless very elegant and attractive. It displays the best traditions of the early archaic bulul style, and it would fit equally well in a museum of ethnographic art or a museum of modern art.
Provenance: purchased in Banaue in 1993. I met the original owner there who told me this bulul came from Kiangan, located in Ifugao province, and was four generations old. It was certified as a cultural property by the National Museum of the Philippines in 1994 with stamp 0047831, and estimated by the NMP to be about three generations old then (ca 1920). This style of bulul is rare; I have not found any published photos of very similar ones, but there is some similarity to a bulul collected in the 19th C. in Bontoc (see Fig. 70, In the Shape of Tradition -Indigenous Art of the Northern Philippines, by Anderson).