Important Aboriginal + Oceanic Art
4 April 2012


(c.1935 - 2002)

synthetic polymer paint on linen

131.0 x 102.5 cm

inscribed verso: artist's name, title, date, medium, size and Karen Brown Gallery cat. EP52

$20,000 - 30,000
Sold for $28,800 (inc. BP) in Auction 24 - 4 April 2012, Melbourne

Karen Brown Gallery, Darwin
Private collection, New South Wales

Catalogue text

'These paintings... I paint them on bodies... young people and old... ceremony for singing... dance... I make the marks'.1

Body Marks of 2000 is one of the highly sought-after deep marine works Prince of Wales painted during this period. The dotting of the body marks in this particular example is more densely packed than usual and his use of bright white, ochre and black together create an intense energy. These are the markings Prince would have originally painted onto the bodies of his clansmen prior to a ceremonial dance but here they are transferred as a permanent record. The work was painted three years after his landmark solo exhibition of 1997 at Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi in Melbourne.

In Larrakia culture the traditional land owners and leaders of ceremonies and dances are referred to as 'King'. In around 1935 Prince of Wales was born Mitbul to Larrakia leader King George at Cullen, or Kahlin Beach, which at the time was the untouched bay of Darwin. Both parents passed away when Mitbul was very young and he was raised by his mother's family to become a Law and Song Man. His ceremonial skills were legendary and he led many public corroborees for international visitors. As lead dancer for his people he led the ceremonial dance for Queen Elizabeth II on her Commonwealth visit to the Northern Territory during the 1970s and he was forever after known as Prince of Wales. When he suffered an untimely stroke his ceremonial responsibilities were curtailed and he took up painting on canvas as a way to ensure that the ceremonial body decorations of his dance and song endured. In 2001 his standing as a Larrakia painter was recognised when he won the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award in the Open Painting Category.

1. Midpul, Prince of Wales, talking about his art, in Notes on Prince of Wales and the Gwalwa Daraniki Land Movement, kindly provided by Grant Smith, Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi.