Songye Community Power Figure by the Master of the Rubinstein Songye, Democratic Republic of the Congo
- cloth, wood, leather, lizard skin, glass beads, animal tooth, feathers
- Height: 40 in (102 cm)
Frederic Rolin, New York
Armand Arman, New York
Allan Stone, New York
François Neyt, Songye : la redoutable statuaire songye d'Afrique centrale, Brussels, 2004, pp. 245 and 343, pl. 211
Christie's New York, Selections from the Allan Stone Collection, November 12, 2007, cover
François Neyt, Songye: the Formidable Statuary of Central Africa, New York, 2009, pp. 245 and 343, pl. 211
Kevin D. Dumouchelle, Power Incarnate: Allan Stone's Collection of Sculpture from the Congo, Greenwich, Connecticut, 2011, p. 51, cat. 28
A closely related figure was in the collection of cosmetics magnate Helena Rubinstein (see fig. 1), featuring a nearly identical treatment of the eyes, the same configuration of metal plates and tacks on the face, and metal-plated shoulders. The sale of Rubinstein's collection at Sotheby Parke Bernet in 1966 was the first major auction of African and Oceanic Art in the United States and a landmark for the African Art market. Interestingly, the purchaser of the Rubinstein Songye figure, lot 241 in the 1966 auction, was the young Allan Stone. The present lot is clearly a work by the same distinctive artist.
The rich array of original attachments to the present figure incorporate refereneces to three elements: air, earth, and water. A woven headress of bird feathers cascades from the head; the figure wears a necklace centered on a pendant of the tooth of a carnivorous mammal; and a strap covered in lizard skin is bound to the torso.