Sculptural Element from a Reliquary Ensemble: Head
19th century (collected before 1914)
Fang peoples, Betsi group
H. x W. x D.: 9 1/8 x 5 3/4 x 6 in. (23.2 x 14.61 x 15.24 cm) With base, Height: 15 5/8 in. (39.69 cm)
Curtis Galleries, Inc.
Not on view
This freestanding head with distinctive winged coiffure was among the first African works exhibited in an art gallery. Such heads and full-bodied figures, exactingly carved by Fang masters, crowned familial altars, which were composed of a bark receptacle filled with relics related to the most distinguished members of an ancestral lineage. The exact circumstances surrounding the removal of this work from Africa are not known. However, by 1914, it had been exhibited at Robert Coady’s Washington Square Gallery in New York. The head therefore became the first African artifact displayed in New York alongside art by modern masters such as Juan Gris and Henri Rousseau.
Joseph Brummer, Paris, before 1914; Robert J. Coady, New York, by 1914; Mrs. P. A. Levine, Paris, 1940s; W. B. Loeb Trust, until 1993; (Christie's, New York, May 18, 1993, lot 82); (Sotheby's, New York, May 17, 2002, lot 144)