Lot 114
  • 114

Songye "Four Horn" Community Power Figure, Democratic Republic of the Congo

600,000 - 900,000 USD
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  • wood, copper, metal, fibers, horns, fabric, beads
  • Height: 21 7/8 in (55.7 cm)
with three Common Waterbuck Antelope (Kobus ellipsiprumnus) horns and one Domestic Goat (Capra hircus) horn attached to the head, a beaded collar of Common Waterbuck Antelope (Kobus ellipsiprumnus) hide around the neck, and an African Civet (Civettictis civetta) hide draped from the waist.


Reportedly Ralph Nash, London, 1970s or earlier
Merton D. Simpson, New York, acquired from the above ca. 1980
Allan Stone, New York, acquired from the above presumably in June 1981


The Mary and Leigh Block Art Gallery, Northwestern University, Evanston, Wild Spirits - Strong Medicine: African Art and the Wilderness, September 21 - November 22, 1989; additional venues:
The Lowe Art Museum, The University of Miami, Miami, December 14, 1989 - January 28, 1990
The Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, February 18 - April 30, 1990
The Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, September 15 - December 1, 1990
Museum for African Art, New York, Exhibition-ism: Museums and African Art, October 14, 1994 - March 5, 1995
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Africa: the Art of a Continent, 100 Works of Power and Beauty, June 7 - September 29, 1996
The Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut, Power Incarnate: Allan Stone's Collection of Sculpture from the Congo, May 14 - September 4, 2011
S2 Gallery, New York, Hunters and Gatherers: The Art of Assemblage, November 18 - December 16, 2011


Merton D. Simpson (adv.), African Arts, Vol. XIV, No. 1, November 1980, p. 1
Martha G. Anderson, Wild Spirits, Strong Medicine: African Art and the Wilderness, New York, 1989, p. 123, cat. no. 82
Mary Nooter Roberts, Susan M. Vogel, and Chris Müller, Exhibition-ism: Museums and African Art, New York, 1994, p. 17, fig. 3 (sketch)
Anthony Shelton, Fetishism: Visualizing Power and Desire, London, 1995, color plate 11
Tom Phillips (ed.), Africa: the Art of a Continent, 100 Works of Power and Beauty, New York, 1996, pp. 108-109, cat. no. 51
François Neyt, Songye : la redoutable statuaire songye d'Afrique centrale, Brussels, 2004, pp. 100 and 344, pl. 63  
François Neyt, Songye: the Formidable Statuary of Central Africa, New York, 2009, pp. 100 and 344, pl. 63
Kevin D. Dumouchelle, Power Incarnate: Allan Stone's Collection of Sculpture from the Congo, Greenwich, Connecticut, 2011, pp. 6 and 54, cat. 31
Lisa Dennison and Adam Gopnick (eds.), Hunters and Gatherers: The Art of Assemblage, New York, 2011, pp. 11, 106-107
No author, "Art in Motion", Tribal Arts Magazine, No. 69, Autumn 2013, p. 28
Ellen Gamerman, “An Eccentric’s African Trove”, The Wall Street Journal, July 13, 2013, p. C14
Olga Grimm-Weissert, "Hauptstadt der Stammeskunst", Die Zeit, No. 35, August 22, 2013, p. 46


Marks, nicks, scratches, and small abrasions consistent with age and use. Shallow narrow scratches to both breasts, possibly from ritual scraping. Vertical age cracks, including one to the proper right side of the head through the ear, one to the proper left side of the head through the ear, and one on the reverse below the aperture underneath the proper right arm. The entire sculpture with internal erosion (insect damage), not visible from the outside. The four original horns with multiple piercings at the base of each. Back proper right horn broken and glued around the base. Back proper left horn partially eroded revealing bishimba (magical charge materials) inside and original vegetal adhesive at bottom. All four horns with consistent aged patina and encrustation, attesting to long ritual use. Two of the horns stabilized with adhesive. The wood with lustrous medium to dark reddish brown patina, blackened in places, and seething ritually-applied oil in the face. Metal parts with aged, oxidized patina. Top portion of central metal plate above the nose glued to wood. Note that the figure is eroded below the waist, and permanently mounted at the original height; the height of the figure is 21 7/8 in (55.7 cm) and as mounted 31 5/8 in (80.5 cm). Hide attachment is dry and fragile, with losses as shown in catalogue illustration. Fraying and small losses to textile strips.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

In her discussion of the Allan Stone Four-Horn Statue at the occasion of the Wild Spirits, Strong Medicine: African Art and the Wilderness exhibition at the Museum for African Art, New York, Martha Anderson (1989: 123) notes: "Because large figures invoke the assistance of supreme ancestral spirits they are imbued with greater power than personal objects that rely on more transitory, earth-bound, wandering spirits for their power."

Crowning the sculpture with four horns, each pointing into one of the cardinal directions, the artist of the Stone figure created an unforgettable image of power and vitality. The spirit represented here dominates its surrounding space, embodying the reach and vigilance of its engagement with the world. The dynamic movement of the horns concentrates at their foot, as if bundled by the head, and comes to rest in the serene expression of the figure's face, where time stands still. Through this juxtaposition of opposing qualities, the unknown artist created one of the most arresting works of all figurative sculpture - a universal masterpiece.

Widely published and exhibited, the "Four-Horn" statue from the Allan Stone Collection is an icon of African art.