Lot 57
  • 57

A Superb Teke Male Power figure, Democratic Republic of the Congo

100,000 - 150,000 USD
bidding is closed


buti, standing on parted bent legs of highly cubist shape, the male figure with mutilated phallus and straight torso, the arms held to the abdomen, the massive neck with a metal ring surmounted by a bearded head with almond shaped mouth beneath a triangular nose bisecting small incised eyes; one clay bundle attached to the abdomen, another bundle with a single cowry shell attached to the forehead, a third bundle with a striated seashell attached to reverse of head; two old labels ('DOUANE IMPORTATION PARIS CENTRALE' and '39') and '01200' in white pigment on bottom of feet, two old labels ('R 89' and 'Rubenstein [sic]') and 'H.C 19' in white pigment on bottom of thighs; exceptionally fine, aged dark brown patina with encrustation.


Helena Rubinstein, Paris and New York
Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, April 21, 1966, lot 246
Acquired by the present owner at the above auction


Joseph Butler, American Antiques 1800-1900. A Collector's History and Guide, New York, 1965, p. 177, ill. 119

Catalogue Note

LaGamma (2007: 304) notes: "In Teke society the ikwii, or shades of the death, warded off calamities perpetrated by witches. The father of a family invoked the ikwii of his father, mother, and sometimes his mother's brother on behalf of his own children and wives. A shrine to one's deceased family members featured reliquary figures of some of those individuals (buti) along with other items [...].

"Buti were named after and identified with the specific male ancestors whom they embodied. Generally those individuals were renowned chiefs or leaders whose presence assured thye community's well-being. The sacred component of buti was composed of earth from the grave of the deceased, which was considered to contain traces of his corporeal being. [...] As the responsibility of individual family leaders, buti were kept within their owners' home. Those of a village leader afforded to benefits to the community at large. It appears that, on the death of its owner, a buti was often buried with him along with all his other belongings."

Standing Teke buti figures of the age and size of the Dinhofer figure are extremely rare. Its deep patination attests to a long period of ritual use. Both in its monumentality and the pristine preservation of the three clay bundles, it is one of the most extraordinary examples known. For a stylistically related seated figure with similar facial features in the Museum for Ethnography, Budapest ('59.33.2) see Lehuard (1974: 124, fig. 62). For another standing figure with similar treatment of the limbs from the collection of the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation, New York, see MoAA (1976: 72, fig. 60).