Lot 11
  • 11

Pre-Sapi Stone Found Spirit Figure, Sierra Leone

30,000 - 50,000 USD
106,250 USD
bidding is closed


  • stone
  • Height: 8 1/2 in (21.5 cm)


Reportedly collected in Sierra Leone by Margaret Hemming
By descent to her niece
Peter Adler, London, acquired from the above by 1979
Alan Brandt, New York
Daniel and Marian Malcolm, Tenafly, New Jersey, acquired from the above on July 10, 1983


South London Art Gallery, London, African Sculpture from Private Collections in London, October 19 - November 8, 1979


Ian Auld and Tom Phillips, African Sculpture from Private Collections in London, London, 1979, p. 6, cat. no. 15
John McKesson, "Collection Marian & Daniel Malcolm", Arts d'Afrique Noire, no. 54, Summer 1985, p. 12
Heinrich Schweizer, Visions of Grace: 100 Masterpieces from the Collection of Daniel and Marian Malcolm, Milan, 2014, p. 63, cat. 20

Catalogue Note

Schweizer (2014: 61) notes that: "The word 'found' most accurately describes the circumstances of [the discovery of Pre-Sapi sculpture] since none of the current residents of these areas claim to know anything about who made them. [...] To date, unfortunately, there have has not been a single scientific excavation of one of these archaeological relics. Given this lack of information, there has been much speculation about the origin and age of these stone sculptures. As early Portuguese and Dutch travelers do not mention a regional stone-carving tradition, it is generally accepted that these sculptures were created well beofre the time of first European contact in 1463."

Schweizer (ibid.: 62) continues: "The nomoli [found spirit] from the Malcolm Collection is one of the most refined and best preserved of its kind. Physical attributes such as its large ears and bulbous eyes suggest that it does not represent a mortal human, but rather a being from the spirit world, perhaps a deceased ancestor. Its pensive posture with crossed arms reflects a contemplative and thoughtful character, not an aggressive one. The deep hole on top of its head, worn down at its edges, attests to previous ritual use. In fact, other nomolisia show similar openings in various forms and locations, into which potent substances could be inserted. Some nomolisia [...] were found with pieces of quartzite lodged in such openings, evidence of previous power charges."