Kongo-Yombe Ivory Flywhisk Handle, Democratic Republic of the Congo
- hippopotamus ivory, wood, metal
- Height of the ivory figure: 3 3/4 in (9.5 cm)
Rey Kerr, New York, acquired from the above
Martin Lerner, New York, acquired from the above in May 1999
The seated figure forming the handle of this flywhisk is shown wearing a European-style collared tunic, belt, and close-fitting cap, an attire adopted by Kongo leaders to signify power and prestige. Bassani (1988: 216) states: "Full costumes in a style fashionable in Europe in the 16th century continued to be portrayed in Kongo ivories long after the Portuguese had ceased to be a presence, and these styles were no longer worn in Europe. [...] Items of European clothing were probably gifts to African rulers, who no doubt preserved them as exotic curiosities."
The lead-inlaid wood shaft below is decorated with geometric patterns seen frequently in Kongo and Kuba textiles, relief decoration, and body scarification. For a photograph of such scarification see Neyt (2010: 312).
For a very closely related figure possibly by the same artist from the collection of René and Anne Vanderstraete, see Felix (2010: 140-141, fig. 170).