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African & Oceanic Art / Important Hemba Male Figure, Mambwe Region, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Lot 98
Important Hemba Male Figure, Mambwe Region, Democratic Republic of the Congo
27 April 2022, 10:00 EDT
New York

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Important Hemba Male Figure, Mambwe Region, Democratic Republic of the Congo

singiti
Wood with rich brown residue of sacrificial matter
Height 25 7/8in (65.6cm)

Provenance
Count Baudouin de Grunne (1917-2011), Wezembeeck-Oppem, Belgium
Bernard de Grunne, Brussels
Important Private Collection, acquired from the above in 1997

Published
Neyt, Francois and Louis De Strycker, Approche des Arts Hemba, Arts d'Afrique Noire, Villiers-le-Bel, 1975, p. 32, plates 29-30;
Neyt, Francois, La Grande Statuaire Hemba du Zaire, Publications d'Histoire de l'Art ed d'Archeologie de l'Universite Catholique de Louvain, 1977, VIII, No. 3, pp. 296 - 297;
Bayer, André, Oude Kunst uit Afrika en Oceanie, Sint-Niklaas, 1979, fig. 22;
Phillips, Tom (ED), Africa - The Art of a Continent, London, Royal Academy of Arts, 1995, p. 294, fig. 4.66b;
Guimiot, Philippe, Regards sur une Collection, Brussels: Art et Objets Tribaux II, 1995, fig. 35;
LaGamma, Alisa, Heroic Africans: Legendary Leaders, Iconic Sculptures, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2011, p. 256, fig. 219;
LaGamma, Alisa, Helden-Ein neuer Blick auf die Kunst Afrikas, Rietberg Museum, Zurich, 2012, pp. 256 - 257; fig. 219

Exhibited
Sint-Niklaas, Belgium, Oude Kunst uit Afrika en Oceanie, Rotary Club, 5 May - 20 May 1996;
Africa - The Art of a Continent, London, Royal Academy of Arts, 4 October 1995 - 21 January 1996; Berlin, Martin Gropiu Bau, 1 March - 1 May 1996; New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 7 June - 29 September 1996;
Heroic Africans: Legendary Leaders, Iconic Sculptures, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 19 September 2011 - 29 January 2010;
Zürich, Helden - Ein neuer Blick auf die Kunst Afrikas, Museum Rietberg, 26 February - 3 June 2012

Alisa LaGamma notes, "The departed, to whom such petitions were addressed, remained present in Hemba communities through the inspired sculptural creations of regional masters. Among the corpus of the representations that survive in Western collections are works that are among the most sublime yet least familiar in the history of art. The princely subjects exalted by these visual tributes were the leaders of communities situated across the vast grass plains extending from the east bank of the Upper Congo River north and south of one of its tributaries, the Luika. These depictions are notable for their majestic stature, unequivocal intensity, and refined elegance as well as for their serenely tranquil gazes and the delicate sensitivity with which they were carved. Originally housed within darkened ancestral mausoleums, these contemplative figures express a preoccupation with concerns of transcendent significance. Among the paradoxes of this artistic genre is that, despite the lengths to which Hemba masters went to produce rarified and nuanced likenesses, their achievements were generally removed from the line of vision of ordinary mortals. Instead, the originally intended audience for their refined perfection appears to have been an otherworldly one. (Heroic Africans: Legendary Leaders, Iconic Sculptures, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2011, p. 225)

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