Exhibitions/ Art Object

Figure from a Reliquary Ensemble: Seated Male

19th century (before 1916)
Equatorial Guinea or Gabon
Fang peoples, Ntumu group
Wood, oil
H.: 23 1/8 in. (58.7 cm) ca. 29 inches high with base Base ca. 8 inches square
Credit Line:
National Museum of African Art Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; Gift of the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation
Not on view
Due to its prestigious provenance and impressive physical presence, this sculpture is undoubtedly the most famous work from Agnes and Eugene Meyer’s collection of African art. Like most African works imported to the West, this Fang reliquary sculpture experienced several changes en route, beginning with its separation from its relic’ container. Recent scientific analysis indicates that the hands were repaired and might originally have held a bowl in a gesture of offering. The work’s positioning on a wooden pyramidal display mount (in the exhibition, a re-creation of the early twentieth-century original) constituted the last step in its affirmation as a "work of art."
Paul Guillaume, Paris, before 1917; Marius de Zayas, New York, 1917; Agnes and Eugene Meyer, New York, ca. 1918–72