Perrois has identified the figures in this striking corpus as "Southern Kota (Obamba and Wumbu)" (Perrois, Kota, 2012, p. 150), while LaGamma suggests "Obamba or Mindumu" (LaGamma, Eternal Ancestors, 2007, pp. 234-239). Reliquary figures in this style have long been prized for their Cubistic architecture; see Sotheby’s, New York, May 15, 2017, lot 110, for an example once in the collection of André Lefèvre, an avid collector of the work of Picasso, Braque, and Gris. Félix Fénéon’s fine collection of Kota sculpture (see lot 22) included at least one of this type, and others were published and exhibited in the 1920s and 1930s, including two from Paul Guillaume: the figure now in the Malcolm Collection, first published in Cahiers d’art in 1927, and another in Negro Anthology Made by Nancy Cunard, 1934, p. 708. While the early provenance of the present figure is unknown, the Inagaki base suggests that it was once in the same Parisian milieu.
A reliquary figure in the collection of the musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac, Paris (inv. no. 73.1963.0.727) is so astonishingly similar to the present lot that they must surely have been made by the same hand. The museum's figure appears in a photograph, reportedly taken before 1930, with six other reliquary figures, including one from the same very rare corpus as lot 52 in this sale.
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