Lot 56
  • 56

Kongo Nail Power Figure, Democratic Republic of the Congo

30,000 - 50,000 USD
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  • wood, metal
  • Height: 20 3/4 in (52.7 cm)


Robert Duperrier, Paris
Merton D. Simpson, New York (inv. no. “3380”), acquired from the above in May 1980
Allan Stone, New York, acquired from the above on June 1, 1989

Catalogue Note

This extraordinarily ancient and powerful statue reflects a harmonious collaboration between the artistry of a Kongo sculptor, the remnants of a long and active ritual career, and the effects of nature and time.  The archaic style of the sculpture and the evidence of varied and repeated ritual use, combined with the disintegrated condition of the legs and the weathered surface, suggest that the figure was used for a long period of time before its collection.

The slightly turned head surmounts a tall, columnar torso bracketed by arms bent at the elbows and held tightly to the body.  The surface is scattered with deeply-embedded nails, blades, and other metal implements, as well as cracks and shallow cavities roughening the surface where others, now lost, were ritually inserted.  The eyes, once probably inlaid with charge materials, mirror, glass, or perhaps gunpowder, are now hollow and cavernous leaving a skull-like appearance.  Features such as the naturalistically-rounded shape of the brow, the curved profile of the nose above still-visible nostrils, and bands of scarification down the cheeks are weathered but preserved. Despite its aged and weathered condition, the figure exhudes aggressive spiritual power.