Highlights from the Collection of Edwin and Cherie Silver

Launch Slideshow

On 13 November, Sotheby’s will begin the marquee New York auction week with the sale of one of the great American collections of non-western art: The Collection of Edwin and Cherie Silver, including top-quality examples of classical African, Pre-Columbian, Oceanic and American Indian Art. The Silvers built their famous Los Angeles collection beginning in the 1960s, during the golden age of American post-war collecting in these categories. This auction is an opportunity to acquire sculptures of a calibre that are rarely available on the market today. Click ahead for a first look at a selection of highlights from the sale.

The Collection of Edwin & Cherie Silver
13 November | New York


Highlights from the Collection of Edwin and Cherie Silver

  • Kota-Ndassa Reliquary Figure, Republic of the Congo. Estimate $1,000,000–1,500,000.
    This immense sculpture is a tour-de-force of Kota artistry. Elements in three different colours of metal are arranged in a highly refined scheme of line and shape. Framed by a magnificent headdress, iron bands reminiscent of tears cascade down the cheeks from almond-shaped eyes while the whole head is lifted up on the dynamically flared shoulders of a diamond-shaped body.

  • Colima Seated Figure, Protoclassic, 100 BC–AD 250. Estimate $50,000–70,000.
    This dignified, proud and confident figure represented a ruler or individual of “superordinate political rank,” indicated foremost by the seated posture – a symbol of attained status and authority – and the modified conch shell spire carefully attached as a headdress.

  • Ijo Forest Spirit Figure, Nigeria. Estimate $700,000–1,000,000.
    The Ijo described forest spirits as volatile and violent, but these unruly spirits of the psychically and physically dangerous wilderness often became the subject of shrine sculptures, their aggression channelled into a protective role. The spirit is enshrined here in the guise of an all-seeing seven-headed warrior, who is armed to the teeth and who bares his teeth with concentrated ferocity. His gaping mouths may indicate his command of aunbibi, a type of magical speech through which the greatest warriors could accomplish miraculous feats with just a few words. This awe-inspiring sculpture, which stands over seven feet tall, is both the apogee of its corpus and one of the largest wood sculptures of Sub-Saharan Africa.

  • Hemba-Niembo Statue of the Ancestor Kalala Lea, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Estimate $400,000–600,000.
    Hemba statues of influential ancestors were images of idealized leadership that validated the authority of their chiefly owners and connected them with their predecessors. The art historian François Neyt has called these sculptures “genealogical milestones,” but it is rare for the names of these venerated ancestors to come down to us. We know however that this monumental sculpture – one of the largest in the corpus – was created in honour of an ancestral leader called Kalala Lea. This profound and powerful figure stands sentinel, his gaze at once serene and omniscient.

  • Kota-Obamba Reliquary Figure by the Sebe Master of the Skull Head, Gabon. Estimate $1,200,000–1,800,000.
    Art historians have identified a small corpus of Kota sculptures that are so artistically accomplished and stylistically distinctive that they can be attributed to the same master sculptor, now known only as the Sebe Master. The deep volumes of the head create interplaying convex and concave forms, richly ornamented with various-coloured metals and projecting the fierce intensity of a protective ancestor spirit.

  • Bamana Headdress, Minianka Region, Mali. Estimate $150,000–250,000.
    This antelope headdress, ci wara, presents the iconography of mother and child distilled to the essence of its form by a master sculptor. The lines of the sculpture are inscribed in space like a series of calligraphic strokes, firm, sinuous and lucid. This headdress was once part of the iconic African art collection of Helena Rubinstein.

  • Kota-Obamba Reliquary Figure, Gabon. Estimate $250,000–350,000.
    The sculptor of this extraordinary Kota Figure has radically distilled the human face into a minimal geometric concept. The symmetrical lozenge-shaped face is divided vertically down its median, and centred upon convex circular eyes that create an expression of attentive vigilance and otherworldly intensity.


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