50
50
Kota-Obamba Reliquary Figure, Gabon
Estimate
50,00070,000
LOT SOLD. 116,250 USD
JUMP TO LOT
50
Kota-Obamba Reliquary Figure, Gabon
Estimate
50,00070,000
LOT SOLD. 116,250 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

The Collection of Edwin & Cherie Silver

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New York

Kota-Obamba Reliquary Figure, Gabon
on a base by the Japanese wood artist Kichizô Inagaki (1876-1951), Paris
Height: 15 3/8 in (39 cm)
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Provenance

Morris J. Pinto, Paris and New York
Sotheby's, London, African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art from the Pinto Collection, May 9, 1977, lot 130
British Rail Pension Fund, acquired at the above auction
Sotheby's, London, July 3, 1989, lot 136, consigned by the above
Edwin and Cherie Silver, Los Angeles, acquired at the above auction

Literature

Raoul Lehuard, 'Les Ventes', Arts d'Afrique Noire, No. 23, Autumn 1977, p. 44

Catalogue Note

The downturned eyes of this fine and early reliquary figure lend its face a somewhat plaintive and meditative air. The eyes are formed as long slit ellipses below the pronounced triple arches of the brows, which delineate the upper limit of a characteristically heart-shaped face narrowing towards a sharply pointed chin. The slightly concave face balances the ample forehead, which is bisected by a prominent medial ridge that widens into a short geometric nose. Alternating plates of brass and copper define the geometric forms of the upper lip, stylized cheekbones, and chin. Small rectangular teeth are indicated within the slightly pursed mouth. The brass plates on reliquary figures of this style often appear to have a crinkled texture (see also lot 13); the Chaffins note that this due to the particular thinness of the brass used, a type mysteriously named "Neptune" (Chaffin and Chaffin, L’art Kota, 1980, p. 148).

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.

The Collection of Edwin & Cherie Silver

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New York