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Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Commemorative Mother and Child Figure

19th–20th century
Angola or Democratic Republic of the Congo
Kongo, Yombe group
Wood, glass, metal, pigment
H. 13 5/8 x W. 4 3/4 x D. 3 7/8 in. (34.6 x 12.1 x 9.8 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
Not on view
This maternity figure is an idealized Kongo archetype of historical feminine beauty. Her raised scarifications in geometric patterns on the chest and back, filed teeth, beaded adornments, and prominent hairstyle denote this figure as a woman of elite status. The mother's peaked hairstyle is echoed by the coiffure of the child cradled in her lap. This sculpture was likely placed in a shrine to honor the ancestral mothers of a lineage. The glass fragments placed in the figure's eyes suggest the sculpture's commemorative role. Reflective surfaces such as mirrored glass suggest the surface of water, a symbolic link to the ancestral realm. Kongo cosmology posits water as the median that separates the living world from the afterlife.
Donald H. Peters; [Julius Carlebach Gallery, New York, until 1956]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1956, on permanent loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1956–1978

Robbins, Warren M. African Art in American Collections= L'art africain dans les collections americaines . New York: F.A. Praeger, 1966, fig. 281.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 418.

Rosenthal, Frieda. African Art in Westchester from Private Collections. Yonkers, NY: Hudson River Museum, 1971, no. 194.

Bassani, Ezio. "Due Grandi Artisti Yombe." Critica d'arte Africana vol. 1 (July–September 1981), pp. 66-84.

Lehuard, Raoul. "Art Bakongo: les centres de style." Arts d'Afrique Noire vol. 2 (1989).

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