Fang Female Reliquary Figure, Gabon

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Lot 299
Fang Female Reliquary Figure, Gabon

Sold for US$ 20,000 inc. premium
Fang Female Reliquary Figure, Gabon
nlo bieri
Wood, metal, palm oil
height 13 7/8in (35.3cm)

The full figure standing upright with a bulbous head with childlike features with inset metal eyes with diminutive nose and slit mouth with jagged upper lip, the crested coiffure arching back and becoming a braided/ribbed, columnar extension half-way down the back; muscular arching shoulders with arms bent at the elbow and meeting at the front of the torso with a protruding navel, her finely sculpted muscular hips above corpulent, diminutive legs on block feet (the right half lost) with toes delineated with incisions; remnants of the rod for attachment to reliquary basket on the back; fine dark-brown patina with areas heavily saturated with palm oil; collector's mark "C/25" written in white pain on the back.

PROVENANCE
Charles Ratton, Paris
Andre Derain, Paris
Sydney Burney, London, 1943
Sotheby's, New York, November 1986, Lot 53
Douglas Drake Gallery, New York
Private Collection, Hawaii, acquired from the above in 1988

Derain, like Vlamink and Picasso, was one of the first artists to collect the tribal art of Africa which became influential to many of the artists of the early 20th century.

"In the dense rainforests of the Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and southern Cameroon, a widespread belief in the spiritual power of ancestral relics among Bantu peoples underlay the creation of remarkable works of art. The Fang peoples historically derived a sense of continuity with their past and communal cohesiveness in the present through an ancestral cult known as bieri. Over three centuries, a southwesterly migration into present-day southern Cameroon and northern Gabon occurred village by village, resulting in the loosely structured fluid nature of Fang society today. During its travels, each Fang family brought a bark box containing the skulls of its ancestors. A carved head or figure mounted on top of each reliquary box guarded the sacred contents against the forbidden gaze of women and uninitiated boys. The earliest reliquary guardians were heads, but by the beginning of the twentieth century busts and full figures were also being made. By the 1950s the role of bieri in Fang culture was replaced by a syncretic religion known as bwiti. Bieri figures exemplify the qualities the Fang admire in people--tranquility, vitality, and the ability to hold opposites in balance. These ideals are shown in the balanced forms of the figures. The large head of an infant is juxtaposed with the fully developed body of an adult, and a static symmetrical pose and passive expressionless face are counterbalanced by the tension of bulging muscles.' (Metropolitan Museum of Art, WEB, nd)
Contacts
Fang Female Reliquary Figure, Gabon
Fang Female Reliquary Figure, Gabon
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