Lunda-Luba Royal Scepter, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Wood, metal, pigments
height 55 1/2in (141cm)
The iron scepter is wrapped with aluminum bands at the handle, and with a finely carved wooden finial with janus heads, representing twin tutelary spirits, each wearing royal crowns with flaring elements below an abstract superstructure; fine dark brown patina with black highlights.
According to Manuel Jordan in a letter accompanying the present work, "This scepter's overall form and type is comparable to examples documented among Luba chiefs as emblems of rank and prestige - defined as mnemonic devices with codified elements or symbols that indicate aspects of their history and cosmology (Nooter Robert and Roberts, Memory: Luba Art and the Making of History, Munich, 1996). Some of the formal specificity of the scepter, its particular carving style (naturalistic-rounded facial features), and the contrasting two-tone coloration (however) suggest a Lunda-peoples attribution to its original ownership and manufacture...
...This staff is a fine example of an art form that successfully blends traditions and established formal ideas with a degree of conceptual innovation. The dynamic blending of abstract and naturalistic elements on this piece is quite effective in transmitting basic yet profound notions of kingship in a particularly creative fashion. The abstract superstructure is very dynamic and almost unique for such a staff. In my opinion it establishes a formal correlation with fence posts that are found around the palaces of some Lundu-related peoples. These include generally abstract, dynamic forms that similarly engage universal forces to protect royal compounds and they "bounce back" anything negative that may be directed towards them."