Bonhams : A fine and rare Vili ivory crucifix Democratic Republic of Congo 11.5cm (4.5ins) high
A fine and rare Vili ivory crucifix Democratic Republic of Congo 11.5cm (4.5ins) high

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Lot 382Y Ф
A fine and rare Vili ivory crucifix
Democratic Republic of Congo 11.5cm (4.5ins) high

£ 7,000 - 10,000
US$ 9,000 - 13,000
A fine and rare Vili ivory crucifix
Democratic Republic of Congo
the T-shaped cross supporting the Christ figure carved with half-clasped hands, tilted head, twisted body and legs slightly apart, wearing a loin cloth about the thighs, a loop at the top for suspension, three further holes, fine worn surface with creamy patina, 11.5cm (4.5ins) high

Footnotes

  • In 1483, Portuguese sailors became the first Europeans to encounter the Kongo people, as they voyaged along the west coast of Africa to search for new commercial routes to the East Indies. This mercantile expansion was accompanied by a religious zeal to convert the people they met, to Catholicism. By the early 16th Century, under the patronage of King Manuel I of Portugal, the king of Kongo himself was baptised as Alfonso I, and he in turn presided over many other converted local rulers. Missionaries reinforced Christian beliefs by the use of visual aids like crucifixes and carvings of St. Anthony (of Lisbon), which were made by local artists in metal, wood and ivory following Portuguese templates but with African features in traditional Kongo style.

    It is very rare to find an ivory crucifix pendant, the more common form being that of a 'hand cross', the brass Christ applied to a wood frame, or a brass crucifix cast with integral figures in shallow relief. This example is close in style to ivory carvings from the Vili of the coastal Loango region, a Kikongo speaking group with a tradition of carving fine ivory staff finials, charms and whistles. We speculate this may have been worn by a local high ranking convert as a symbol of religious authority, or reinterpreted by a diviner as a charm to reinforce his mediator role between 'this world' and the 'spirit world'. The fine patination and strong Vili iconography suggest this dates to the 19th Century at least.
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Lot symbols
Ф Item contains or is made of ivory

This lot contains or is made of ivory. The United States Government has banned the import of ivory into the USA.

Y CITES

Subject to CITES regulations when exporting items outside of the EU, see clause 13.