Kongo Minkenge figure, Republic of the Congo
The apparent homogeneity of the statuary collected in Bembe country stands in sharp contrast to the striking individuality of certain styles, calling to mind the contradictory hypotheses that were formulated as to the origin of the Bembe and to the tangibility of a common substrate. In Art Bakongo. Les centres de styles (1989, p. 328), Raoul Lehuard thus noted the marked specificity both in terms of style ("a different inspiration albeit without any borrowed elements from a neighboring statuary") and cult practices, of the - rare - Minkenge (or Keenge) statuary. For these westerly neighbors or a sub-group of the Bembe: " the sculptures bear their charge in a stomach cavity or added in the form of bags tied to the arms; and [most] are covered with a thick sacrificial crust [of Teke influence]."
Moreover, Minkenge art stands out for a corpus as singular as it is narrow, with relatively large-scale statues, their proportions naturalistic and figuring a man with his right knee to the ground, the other leg bent, imbued with a prodigious solemnity by the command of that martial pose and the forceful presence of his face. The craftsmanship of the five known statues attests to two distinct eras. The three core pieces were collected early: the statue belonging to the Raoul Lehuard collection figuring an oracle brandishing his bells, that of the former Helena Rubinstein collection, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (inv. No. 1978.412.521), and the hunter effigy of the Daniel and Carmen Klein collection, which was collected in 1927 by an administrator in charge of topographical works in Bembe country (Lehuard, ibid 427). The other two hunter figures on record were sculpted later, as "replacement statues"; Used by the Nganga (ritual specialist) their purpose was, according to the Nganga consulted by Raoul Lehuard, to "place you in the fog when someone wishes to harm you." (ibid)
The remarkable individuality, limited number and consistency of this ancient corpus suggest the hand of a single master who carved these three masterpieces at different stages in his career. His Kongo (possibly Vili) origins are inferred both from the iconography and from the dynamics of the stance, the naturalism of the style, the abdominal location of the charge and the details of the coiffure. The protective efficacy of these icons is compounded by the force of their visual impact – such as it appears before us in majesty.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale