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Male Reliquary Figure (Nlo Bieri)
Figure from a Reliquary Ensemble: Seated Female
Figure from a Reliquary Element: Seated Male (Nlo Bieri)
Janus Reliquary Figure
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This artwork is currently on display in Gallery 352
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.
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
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