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125

THE BALENE MCCORMICK COLLECTION

Bamileke Figural Palace Column, Cameroon
Estimation
70 000100 000
Lot. Vendu 365,000 USD (Prix d’adjudication avec commission acheteur)
ACCÉDER AU LOT
125

THE BALENE MCCORMICK COLLECTION

Bamileke Figural Palace Column, Cameroon
Estimation
70 000100 000
Lot. Vendu 365,000 USD (Prix d’adjudication avec commission acheteur)
ACCÉDER AU LOT

Details & Cataloguing

African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art

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New York

Bamileke Figural Palace Column, Cameroon

Provenance

Robert Jacobsen, Paris, by 1963
Mrs. Jacques Ulmann, Paris
Daniel Hourdé, Paris
Alain de Monbrison, Paris
Balene McCormick, Santa Fe, acquired from the above on October 25, 1997

Exposition

National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen, Negerskulptur fra Vestafrika: Robert Jacobsens Samling, 1963
Musée de l'Homme, Paris, Arts Primitifs dans les Ateliers d'Artistes, May - September, 1967

Bibliographie

Lennart Larsen and Torben Lundbæk, Negerskulptur fra Vestafrika: Robert Jacobsens Samling, Copenhagen, 1963, p. 17, cat. no. 3
Pierre Joly, "Les demures d'artistes: chez Jacobsen", La Maison Française, no. 193, December 1964/January 1965
Société des Amis du Musée de l'Homme (ed.), Arts Primitifs dans les Ateliers d'Artistes, Paris, 1967, cat. 43
René S. Wassing, African Art: Its Background and Traditions, New York, 1968, p. 273, cat. 103
Francine Ndiaye, Arts ancestraux du Cameroun, La Flèche, 1995, p. 13, figs. 11-12
Jean-Baptiste Bacquart, The Tribal Arts of Africa, London, 1998, p. 108, fig. 1

Description

The McCormick Bamileke Post

Amidst the broad spectrum of sculptures for which the Bamileke people of the Cameroon Grassfields are known, figurative, three- dimensional free-standing houseposts are a regular feature of architectural art.  Houseposts such as this one supported the roof of an open veranda attached to the Chief’s residence, the centre of the chiefdom.  This was a traditional building of raffia palmrib construction looking upon the chiefdom’s main market, the major point of trade transactions for the economic welfare of the chiefdom.  The posts’ broad exposure to the local community was deliberately planned to visually demonstrate and reinforce the values of successful communal living with their figural representations.  Accordingly, houseposts display an array of characters important to the chiefdom: chiefs (or fons) representing  secular and priestly authority; their nursing and/or pregnant wives maintaining the royal lineage; mighty royal alter ego animals; and finally, celebrating the heroism of warfare, guns and trophy heads.  This type of sculpture is public art in the service of the power and might of the chiefdom.

Two of these themes are singled out in this example: the fierce warrior with gun, top and bottom, and the eternal nursing female.  The super-imposed figures each stand upon the heads, rather than the shoulders, of the one below;  they are unadorned with strong bodies and in their stark nudity—aside from the male loincloths—carry a ferocious expression that is made ever more vivid by four wide open mouths (uncannily reminiscent of Munch's Scream), a frequent feature of Bamileke housepost sculpture.  The two guns being held diagonally in opposite directions contribute to a sense of dynamism in this free-wheeling uninhibited vision of the human figure which at times may defy the laws of human anatomy.  In the architectural repertoire, figures of this exuberant style are known from a broad swath of small and large chiefdoms between Bandjoun and Bafussam in central Bamileke country.

Tamara Northern
March 2013

African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art

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New York