With their latest “Entertainment Memorabilia” sale event in Knightsbridge on July 3rd, Bonhams is offering for public sale a second fertility idol attributed to use in Raiders of the Lost Ark with paperwork from industry veteran Kit West. Due to public interest in discussing iconic props from the Indiana Jones films, and confusion in the marketplace with regards to the provenance and authentication of such pieces, I thought it appropriate to update my ongoing series of articles on the topic with the new information and photos (see: Raiders of the Lost Ark Fertility Idols In The Marketplace).
Past Bonhams auctions have featured two bullwhips attributed to Raiders of the Lost Ark, and this sale would mark the second fertility idol listed for public auction.
As there have been a number of examples of such pieces offered for sale in the marketplace in the past that have raised questions due to discrepancies with what is known about those used in the production and/or seen on screen, I’ve felt that it is important to document and archive such pieces in an effort to maintain a record of such pieces circulating in the marketplace. While I’ve published a number of articles related to the topic, a good point of entry would be the first such article written in 2009: “Raiders of the Lost Ark Fertility Idols In The Marketplace (“The Danziger Collection”, “Elstree Film Studios”)”
The newly offered fertility idol listed for public auction in this sale is Lot 141 “”Indiana Jones – Raiders Of The Lost Ark: An original Fertility Idol”.
Below is an archive of this listing:
Per the Bonhams auction listing, the “statement of provenance from Kit West, Special Mechanical Effects Supervisor… confirms that this is one of the original idols used for the filming of the opening sequence set in the Chachapoyan Temple of Warriors”.
Below is an image of the idol from the auction listing:
In the past, the Original Prop Blog has published a number of articles about fertility idols attributed to Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the varying styles with comparisons to what is seen on screen in the film (see Raiders of the Lost Ark Fertility Idols In The Marketplace).
Below is an updated image compilation which now includes the latest unique example from the upcoming Bonhams auction (far right):
As noted in my previously published extensive article on these idols, Mr. Don Bies (see biography) wrote the following in a discussion on the RPF (see “Original Golden Idol from Raiders here…“, Post #68):
Perhaps I can clear some of this up…and allow all of you to further this debate.
The two idols in the archives ARE original. One has glass eyes, one doesn’t. They are hollow fiberglass castings. The one with the glass eyes has a detachable back, with the seam running along the hairline and the back ridge. It has the bar inside as shown in the pics already posted, as well as the magnetic “latching” mechanism.
When I first started at the archives in 1988, the glass eye version (GE) was in similar condition to the one pictured in the Prop Store images. It was broken as well…as a matter of fact, had someone shown me those photos out of context, I would say they were taken in the late 80s of the GE Idol in the archives.
In 1993, Hata International launched an exhibit in Japan of many of the items in the archives. It wasn’t limited to Star Wars; it included Indiana Jones, Willow, Tucker…and even Howard the Duck. As part of that exhibit, they paid for an extensive restoration effort for about 200 items. By that point in time, many things were quite neglected. The two idols were restored then.
For the restoration, both were stripped of the remaining gold plating (it looked like vacuum-metalizing to me); the broken bits were glued back together, and everything sanded smooth to make it look good…perhaps too good. It did look much too clean and not like the original once it came back from the VM, in my opinion.
The Lucasfilm Archive book that has been published was actually the exhibit catalog, written originally in Japanese. Since the two idols, C-3P0 and the Ark were out being VM’d at the time, we couldn’t photograph them for the catalog. Hence, there is no photo of 3P0 in the book; a photo of the second damaged, non-restored Ark; and a photo of a casting of the Idol spray painted gold. This Idol was actually a present to Mr. Hata for organizing the exhibit.
Since I can confirm two versions of the idol exist, I think it still leaves the door open to debate as to whether or not the Hawaiian scenes has eyes or not. It was always my opinion that it didn’t, and I don’t think those screen grabs are conclusive evidence that there are glass eyes in there. The eyes are ill fitting in the one in the archives; there’s tiny gaps between the eyes and the lids. I don’t see that same fit in the Hawaii scene, nor is there much evidence of the seam line to get those eyes in there. There does appear to be a pupil, but that could’ve been painted on. Given my experience with 3P0 and the reflective issues the gold VM creates, it could be some odd reflection, but it wouldn’t be consistent. My opinion is that they’re gold eyes with painted pupils…but that’s my opinion.
Let the debate continue…
I have never seen a still from the film or publicity photo that was shot at a time contemporary with the production of the film showing a a fertility idol with the pronounced “frown” as seen in all examples of my photo compilation above, apart from “The Prop Store Collection” example, which has features consistent with what is known about the originals, that none of those other examples have (i.e. being hollow, having separate eyes, the material that it is made out of, etc.). The current Bonhams offering features the “frown”, as did the example sold by the auction house two years ago, which realized $24,400 (including buyer premium).
Below are archives of the other Kit West associated Raiders of the Lost Ark pieces sold by Bonhams in the past few years:
June 26, 2011 Bonhams Los Angeles (Auction 19045) – Lot 2230 – Raiders of the Lost Ark bullwhip
June 26, 2011 Bonhams Los Angeles (Auction 19045) – Lot 2229 – Raiders of the Lost Ark Fertility Idol
December 15, 2011 Bonhams Los Angeles (Auction 19045) – Lot 92 Raiders Of The Lost Ark, 1981: an Indiana Jones trademark bullwhip