Lot 57
  • 57

Kongo Nail Power Figure, Democratic Republic of the Congo

400,000 - 600,000 USD
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  • wood, metal
  • Height: 30 1/4 in (76.8 cm)


Ader-Picard-Tajan, Drouot-Montaigne, Paris, February 27, 1989, lot 75
Mourtala Diop (Touba M'Backe Gallery), New York
Allan Stone, New York


The Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut, Power Incarnate: Allan Stone's Collection of Sculpture from the Congo, May 14 - September 4, 2011 
S2 Gallery, Sotheby's New York, Hunters and Gatherers: The Art of Assemblage, November 18 - December 16, 2011


African Arts, vol. XXII, no. 4, August 1989, p. 7 (Touba M'Backe Gallery advertisement)
Kevin D. Dumouchelle, Power Incarnate: Allan Stone's Collection of Sculpture from the Congo, Greenwich, Connecticut, 2011, p. 30, cat. 6
Lisa Dennison and Adam Gopnick (eds.), Hunters and Gatherers: The Art of Assemblage, New York, 2011, p. 100-101

Catalogue Note

Blades and other metal tools, some retaining their wooden handles, nails, pins, and even keys bristle from the surface of this Kongo Power Statue in astonishing number, variety, and density.  The torso swells with an almost solid mass of this ritually-inserted metal, testimony to the great age and ritual success of the figure during its period of use in Central Africa; the practitioners who employed it in divination must have considered it consistently effective given that they persisted in inserting pieces of metal long after the accumulation became so crowded as to completely obscure the front of the figure.  The oxidation to the metal and layers of wear and weathering to the wooden figure itself are further evidence of the figure's great age. 

The sophisticated sculptural conception of the body can still be seen beneath the accumulation of metal and by viewing the figure from behind; arched arms separate from the body and the hands reconnect on either side of the abdomen.  The spine is shown as a subtle curved groove running down the center of the back, and massive hips and thighs lift the torso above remarkably narrow, delicate lower legs punctuated by carved representations of flaring anklets.

The ovoid head bears delicately-sculpted features in low relief, including a raised band of facial hair, or perhaps scarification, curling up the cheeks from the corners of the mouth, reflecting the arch of the eyebrows.  At the proper left temple, and presumably also previously on the now-damaged right temple, is a diamond-shaped geometric grid of scarification, of a design frequently seen in Kongo art.  Additions of magic materials cover abraded areas of the nose, proper right eyebrow, and upper lip.  The fleshy parted lips reveal finely carved teeth exposed in an active, confrontational guesture, and plated metal eyes give the figure an alert, commanding expression.