The University of Pennsylvania Museum, Philadelphia
Not on view
The University of Pennsylvania Museum was the first American institution to purchase African art for its aesthetic qualities and not solely as ethnographic records. In 1919, its influential director, George B. Gordon, acquired through the De Zayas Gallery a group of eleven works from Charles Vignier, including this Ijo female figure. It originated in the former trading port of Brass in the Niger Delta, where an ubiquitous genre of sculpture emerged toward the end of the nineteenth century as a consequence of decades of European encounters. Figures such as this one on view in the exhibition, characterized by heightened naturalism, diminutive legs, and articulated arms, were portraits of deceased members of the king’s family. When the family converted to Christianity, they gave a group of these large carvings to missionaries who brought them to Europe shortly afterwards.
Joseph Brummer, Paris, before 1913(?); Charles Vignier, Paris, 1913(?)–19; Marius de Zayas, New York, 1919