Jacques Blanckaert, Brussels, by 1977
Jeffrey Hammer, New York
Michael Oliver, New York
Robert Rubin, New York, acquired from the above on July 13, 1983
Museum for African Art, New York, Outside Museum Walls: African Art in Private Collections, February 5 - April 10, 1994
Museum for African Art, New York, Hair in African Art and Culture, February 9 - May 28, 2000; additional venues:
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, Stanford, 2000
APEX Museum, Atlanta, 2000
California African-American Museum, Los Angeles, 2001
Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History, Detroit, 2001
Diggs Gallery at Winston-Salem State University, Winston-Salem, 2001
DuSable Museum of African-American History, Chicago, 2002
Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, 2002
Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center, Jackson, 2002
Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, Primitivism Revisited: After the End of an Idea, December 15, 2006 - January 27, 2007
François Neyt, La grande statuaire hemba du Zaïre, Louvain-la-Neuve, 1977, pp. 88-89, cat. I, No. 14
John McKesson, "La Collection de Robert Rubin", Arts d'Afrique Noire, no. 71, Autumn 1989, p. 13
Roy Sieber and Frank Herreman, Hair in African Art and Culture, New York, 2000, p. 56, cat. 63
Farmers and hunters, the Hemba people lives in the southeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They inhabit vast plains surrounded by high hills and bordered by streams, rocks, and marshes. It is only since the mid-1970s that Hemba statuary was identified as an original style different from that of the Luba (cf. Neyt 1977: passim). Petridis (2001: text to cat. 66) notes: "The art of both [Hemba and Luba] peoples is stylistically very closely related and the 'cruciform coiffure' identified by Olbrechts is found among both the Hemba and the Luba Katanga." And Kerchache (1993: 572) continues: "For a long time, the Hemba were subjects of the Luba empire, and their own cultural and religious identity, while ancient, was overlooked – although in the seventeenth century, Hemba societies were already developing to the east of the Luba."
Hemba ancestor figures are regarded as one of the finest expressions of African art. "Because of their idealized realism and well balanced proportions – the incarnation of ideal beauty – some of the Hemba images have been compared to the kouroi of pre-Classical Greece [...]. These sculptures, known as lusingiti, represent the founder-ancestor of a section of the paternal line of descent. Like other 'spirit-invested objects' [...] they play a role in ancestor worship, acting as bridges between the ancestors and their living descendants" (Petridis, loc. cit).
The Rubin Hemba Statue was included in François Neyt's catalog raisonné on Hemba statuary "La grande statuaire Hemba du Zaïre" (1977) and classified as example of the "Southern Niembo Style of the Classic Type" (group 1, No. 14). A majestic eurythmy is to be seen in the full and elegantly rounded shapes of the shoulders, arms and chest, surmounted by the voluminous head which is supported by the elongated and elegantly tapering neck. For a similar treatment of the neck and head cf. a Hemba Caryatid Stool previously in the Saul and Marsha Stanoff Collection, sold at Sotheby's New York, May 17, 2007, lot 39.
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