Lot 54
  • 54

A fine Yombe maternity figure, Democratic Republic of the Congo

40,000 - 60,000 USD
bidding is closed


phemba, seated and tenderly supporting the baby with broad hands, the back with raised scarification, the head strongly pitched forward with heavy-lidded eyes inset with glass, and wearing a crested coiffure; handwritten label ('MAYOMBE - R.of Zaire 19 cent - RLKM') on reverse bottom; fine honey brown patina with residue.


Germaine Rodier, Paris
John J. Klejman, New York
Acquired from the above on January 3, 1975


Raoul Lehuard, Art Bakongo: Les Centres de Style, Arnouvilles, 1989, p. 582, fig. K 7-1-2

Catalogue Note

The Rosenthal phemba has been classified by Lehuard (vol. II, 1989: 582) as a masterful example of the rare Yombe sub-style K 7. For another figure by the same hand in the Musée Royale de l'Afrique Centrale, Tervuren see id. (loc. cit., 582, fig. K 7-1-1).

Yombe maternity figures were used in association with women's cults. The iconography of the so-called phemba figures, a cross-legged woman in upright position, holding an infant and facing to the front, has two variants: first, the mother holding a living infant, possibly as a metaphor for the fertility of the people and the land; second, with the mother holding a dead infant as a symbol for the dignity and contemplation of the matriarch.