52
52
Kota-Obamba Reliquary Figure, Gabon
Estimate
50,00070,000
LOT SOLD. 250,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
52
Kota-Obamba Reliquary Figure, Gabon
Estimate
50,00070,000
LOT SOLD. 250,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

The Collection of Edwin & Cherie Silver

|
New York

Kota-Obamba Reliquary Figure, Gabon

Provenance

Lance and Roberta Entwistle, London
Edwin and Cherie Silver, Los Angeles, acquired from the above on October 22, 1991

Catalogue Note

This reliquary figure is part of a very distinctive corpus which consists of just four known figures, all from the area between the "Obamba of the Otala" and Okondja in eastern Gabon (Perrois, Kota, 2012, p. 148). Perrois notes that the people in this region "have inherited the cultural characteristics of the Mbete of neighboring [Republic of the] Congo," (ibid.) and we may detect a resemblance to Mbete reliquary sculpture in the very concentrated arrangement of the facial features and the treatment of the mouth of this reliquary figure.

The other three figures in the corpus are: a figure once in the collections of André Breton and Sir Henry Wellcome, now in the Fowler Museum of Cultural History, UCLA, Los Angeles (inv. no. x65.3802); a figure in the collection of the musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac, Paris (inv. no. 73.1963.0.200); and a figure from the Laprugne collection (sold at Christie’s Paris, April 4, 2017, lot 66). Cloth has christened this style the "Otala Sun", a purely formal reference which is nevertheless justified on the basis of the generally rounded forms and radiating motifs of these figures. (Cloth in Kota: New Light/Nouveaux éclairages, 2015, p. 52).

The four figures are so similar in style and execution that they may have been created by the same hand. All four have a vertical strip of copper which bisects the forehead; this strip is defined by a pronounced ridge, on either side of which the copper is somewhat concave. This characteristic, particularly noticeable in the Silver figure, serves to define the volume of the forehead. The vertical band is bisected in turn by a median strip of copper, the two forming an inverted "T" that anchors a composition otherwise almost entirely composed of rounded forms. The sculptor appears to have always created the eyes by cutting elliptic holes in the copper, with very thin pieces of iron placed underneath. Ridged forms recur in the headdress, the eyebrows, and the lower edge of the face. The stippled decoration is similar to that of lot 13 in this catalogue, but differs in that it is almost entirely created by repoussé work, with only the semi-circular band delineating the curve of the lower part of the face chased. The top of the crescent of all four figures is set with ingots of copper which have been bent to form double spirals that perhaps represent curls of hair, a highly inventive flourish by a very individualistic sculptor.

The Collection of Edwin & Cherie Silver

|
New York