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Exhibitions/ Art Object

Sculptural Element from a Reliquary Ensemble: Head

Gabon, Lower Ogooue River valley
Fang peoples, Betsi group
Height, without base: 10 5/8 in. (27 cm)
Credit Line:
Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950
Not on view
In the fall of 1918, while in France in search of new material, De Zayas met Charles Vignier, who would become his main art supplier for the next two years. These two Fang reliquary elements were among the first works he sent to America; the Arensbergs purchased this figure as well as a free-standing head in May 1919. Whereas before 1918 the maximum price ever paid in New York for an African work was $200, the Arensbergs acquired the figure for $1,000 and the head for $3,500, an indication of the comparatively high prices charged by Vignier. It is possible that their reproduction in Carl Einstein’s 1915 Negerplastik, the most famous publication to date on African objects as art, drove the prices higher.
Frank Burty Haviland, Paris; Joseph Brummer, Paris, before 1913; Charles Vignier, Paris, 1913–19; Marius de Zayas, New York, 1919; The Walter and Louise Arensberg Collection, New York and Los Angeles, 1919