Quantcast

Back to browse highlights

Sculptural Element from a Reliquary Ensemble: Head (The Great Bieri)

Date:
19th–early 20th century
Geography:
Gabon
Culture:
Fang peoples, Betsi group
Medium:
Wood, metal, palm oil
Dimensions:
H. 18 5/16 x W. 9 3/4 x D. 6 5/8 in. (46.5 x 24.8 x 16.8 cm)
Classification:
Wood-Sculpture
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
1979.206.229
  • Description

    In Fang society, figurative sculptures produced for the ancestor cult, or "Bieri", were designed to complement reliquary containers. Such works were generalized ancestral representations which were memorialized and addressed in times of need through relics preserved in the attached container. The reflective shine on the surface is the result of repeated applications of palm oil, a practice also employed on bieri initiates' bodies.

    The formal features of this Fang reliquary sculpture powerfully influenced Modernist artists who began collecting non-Western art during the early twentieth century. This particular work, admired for its balanced symmetry and juxtaposition of straight lines and sinuous curves, became part of the collection of the sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein in the 1920s.

  • Provenance

    Vicente Huidobro, Paris, acquired before 1920; Paul Guillaume, Paris, ca. 1925–(d.)1934; Sir Jacob Epstein, London, 1935–1962; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1962, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1962–1978

  • See also
312429

Close