13
13
Kota-Obamba Reliquary Figure, Gabon
Estimate
50,00070,000
LOT SOLD. 137,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT
13
Kota-Obamba Reliquary Figure, Gabon
Estimate
50,00070,000
LOT SOLD. 137,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

The Collection of Edwin & Cherie Silver

|
New York

Kota-Obamba Reliquary Figure, Gabon

Provenance

Max Itzikowitz, Paris, acquired at the marché aux puces, Saint-Ouen in 1979
Private Collection, acquired from the above
Daniel Hourdé, Paris
Roland de Montaigu, New York
Edwin and Cherie Silver, Los Angeles, acquired from the above on September 15, 1986

Exhibited

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Eternal Ancestors: the Art of the Central African Reliquary, October 2, 2007 - March 2, 2008

Literature

Alain Chaffin and Françoise Chaffin, L'art Kota. Les figures de reliquaire, Meudon, 1979, pp. 156-157 and p. 330, cat. no. 65
Louis Perrois, Arts du Gabon. Les arts plastiques du bassin de l'Ogooué, Arnouville, 1979, rear cover and fig. 198
Daniel Hourdé, advertisement, Arts d'Afrique Noire, No. 46, Summer 1983, p. 45
Daniel Hourdé, advertisement, Arts d'Afrique Noire, No. 47, Autumn 1983, p. 31
Gérard Delorme, 'Réflextions sur l’art funéraire KOTA', Arts d'Afrique Noire, No. 122, Summer 2002, pp. 33 and 38 (line drawings)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Eternal Ancestors: the Art of the Central African Reliquary, 2007, private view invitation
Alisa LaGamma, Eternal Ancestors: the Art of the Central African Reliquary, New York, 2007, p. 241, cat. no. 70

Catalogue Note

This unusual Kota figure displays a range of stylistic elements, demonstrating the complexity of the hallmarks which scholars use in attempting to classify Kota sculpture. The dominant visual element is a vertical band of reddish copper bisecting the forehead, starkly differentiated from the yellow brass behind. A similar medial ridge in copper against brass is seen in the works given to the Sébé River region (see lot 51). The small, heart-shaped face is seen in figures attributed to the Obamba, and also those given to the Ndassa; the out-swept pendants of the coiffure on either side also recall Ndassa forms.

Much rarer are the characteristics that classify this work as unique, or a unique survival: the dramatic overall form of the figure, with a lozenge comprised of kinetically-bowed lines and terminating in a downward-pointed conical knob, reminiscent of a drop of water. Narrow openwork separates the crescent from the top of the head; and the back of the figure bears an echo of the lozenge form in fine diamond motif, with the center deeply carved.

This charming sculpture was selected for the landmark exhibition Eternal Ancestors: the Art of the Central African Reliquary, held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, 2007-2008. In the accompanying catalogue, Alisa LaGamma noted: "This elegant creation features crisp contours underscored with double rows of incised dots. At its core is an especially elongated convex forehead encased in brass and bisected by a narrow copper band stretching from its apex to the tip of the nose. The facial features are concentrated in a heart-shaped configuration at the base of the head. Stippled bands accent the curve of the brow and the horizontal apertures of the eyes and mouth. The tips of the horizontal crescent extend downward to connect with the triangular projections at the sides of the face. A narrow sliver of negative space is exposed at their interstices. The representation is delicately balanced at the base by the openwork lozenge. Associated with fertility, that motif is repeated prominently on the reverse side of the head, where it appears as an abstract design carved in relief" (LaGamma, Eternal Ancestors, 2007, p. 240).

Overall the style is most closely associated with those of the Southern Kota regions.  As Perrois notes: "Rare though they are, the works of the Southern Kota (Obamba and Wumbu) caught the attention of the discoverers of 'Art Nègre' in the 1920s, perhaps on account of their noticeably more 'cubist' appearance than other objects in French Congo." (Perrois, Kota, 2012, p. 150).

In its exceptional stylistic character, its lyrical headdress, and its distinctive stippling design, the present work relates closely to a famous Kota figure with round eyes in the Barbier-Mueller collection (see Perrois, Art ancestral du Gabon, 1985, cover), which also bears a raised diamond motif on the reverse.

The Collection of Edwin & Cherie Silver

|
New York