Lot 77
  • 77

Songye Community Power Figure by the Master of the Rubinstein Songye, Democratic Republic of the Congo

300,000 - 500,000 USD
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  • cloth, wood, leather, lizard skin, glass beads, animal tooth, feathers
  • Height: 40 in (102 cm)


Etude Boisgirard, Hotel Drouot, Paris, March 11, 1974, lot 109
Frederic Rolin, New York
Armand Arman, 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


Freddy Rolin (adv.), African Arts, vol. XI, no. 4, July 1978, p. 13
François Neyt, Songye : la redoutable statuaire songye d'Afrique centrale, Brussels, 2004, pp. 245 and 343, pl. 211
Christie's New York, Selections from the Allan Stone Collection, November 12, 2007, cover
François Neyt, Songye: the Formidable Statuary of Central Africa, New York, 2009, pp. 245 and 343, pl. 211
Kevin D. Dumouchelle, Power Incarnate: Allan Stone's Collection of Sculpture from the Congo, Greenwich, Connecticut, 2011, p. 51, cat. 28

Catalogue Note

This large-scale Songye community power figure is extensively covered in metal sheets and studs, giving it a powerful, imposing apperance.  Contrasting with its heavy architecture and thick metal coverings is the rendering of the eyes, which are thin, almond-shaped, and slightly downturned at the outside corners.  The eyelids are carved with two delicate circumscribed ridges, the inner of which is notched to represent eyelashes.

A closely related figure was in the collection of cosmetics magnate Helena Rubinstein (see fig. 1), featuring a nearly identical treatment of the eyes, the same configuration of metal plates and tacks on the face, and metal-plated shoulders.  The sale of Rubinstein's collection at Sotheby Parke Bernet in 1966 was the first major auction of African and Oceanic Art in the United States and a landmark for the African Art market.  Interestingly, the purchaser of the Rubinstein Songye figure, lot 241 in the 1966 auction, was the young Allan Stone.  The present lot is clearly a work by the same distinctive artist.

The rich array of original attachments to the present figure incorporate refereneces to three elements: air, earth, and water.  A woven headress of bird feathers cascades from the head; the figure wears a necklace centered on a pendant of the tooth of a carnivorous mammal; and a strap covered in lizard skin is bound to the torso.