Exhibitions/ Art Object

Element from a Reliquary Ensemble

19th - early 20th century (before 1914)
Republic of Congo
Kota peoples, Ndassa group
Wood, copper, brass and pigments
H.: 23 5/8 in. (60 cm)
Credit Line:
Musée Dapper, Paris
Not on view
Distinctive for their lustrous metallic surfaces and extreme stylization, the guardians of Kota reliquaries amplified the importance of the potent corporeal matter conserved within the relic packets affixed to their bases. Their arresting geometric design had a powerful impact on the New York avant-garde. After seeing such a work at the Modern Gallery in 1916, one reviewer reacted enthusiastically in the Evening World (September 14, 1916): " ‘Copper Head from the Congo’ is exceedingly interesting. The geometrical motifs entering into it show a connecting link between the antique and the modern. . . . The human element enters into it partly by suggestion and partly, but almost infinitesimally, by realism."
Paul Guillaume, Paris, before 1914; Alfred Stieglitz or Marius de Zayas, New York, 1914; Unknown collection (possibly Agnes and Eugene Meyer), New York and Washington, D.C., until ca. 1960; Eduardo Uhart, New York; [Merton Simpson Gallery, New York, 1984]