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Kongo: Power and Majesty

LaGamma, Alisa
308 pages
ARLIS/NA George Wittenborn Memorial Book Award, Winner (2015)
International Tribal Art Book Prize, Winner (2015)
PROSE Award for Excellence in Art Exhibitions, Honorable Mention (2015)
Foreword Reviews' Book of the Year Award, Gold Winner in Art (2015)
A Publishers Weekly Art, Architecture, and Photography Top Ten Book for 2015
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A fascinating account of the effects of turbulent history on one of Africa’s most storied kingdoms, Kongo: Power and Majesty presents over 170 works of art from the Kingdom of Kongo (an area that includes present-day Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Angola). The book covers 400 years of Kongolese culture, from the fifteenth century, when Portuguese, Dutch, and Italian merchants and missionaries brought Christianity to the region, to the nineteenth, when engagement with Europe had turned to colonial incursion and the kingdom dissolved under the pressures of displacement, civil war, and the devastation of the slave trade. The works of art—which range from depictions of European iconography rendered in powerful, indigenous forms to fearsome minkondi, or power figures—serve as an assertion of enduring majesty in the face of upheaval, and richly illustrate the book’s powerful thesis.

Met Art in Publication

Christ, Open-back cast brass, Kongo peoples; Kongo Kingdom
Kongo peoples; Kongo Kingdom
18th–19th century
Cross with Saint Anthony of Padua, Kongo artist, Solid cast brass, lead-tin alloy sheet, wood, Kongo
16th–18th century (pendant figure); 19th century (cross)
Mangaaka Power Figure (Nkisi N’Kondi), Kongo artist and nganga, Yombe group, Wood, iron, resin, ceramic, plant fiber, textile, pigment, Kongo
Second half of the 19th century
Christ, Brass, Kongo peoples; Kongo Kingdom
Kongo peoples; Kongo Kingdom
18th–19th century
Christ, Solid cast brass with holes for nailing, Kongo peoples; Kongo Kingdom
Kongo peoples; Kongo Kingdom
18th–19th century
Crucifix, Solid cast brass (Christ), solid cast copper alloy (halo); hollow cast bronze (three end pieces), brass sheet (one end piece), solid cast copper alloy (Mary); forged copper and brass (nails), wood, Kongo peoples; Kongo Kingdom
Kongo peoples; Kongo Kingdom
16th–17th century with later additions
Crucifix, Kongo artist, Solid cast brass, Kongo
16th–17th century
Triple Crucifix, Kongo artist, Open-back cast brass (central figure), solid cast brass (top and bottom figures), forged iron nails, brass, copper, wood, ultramarine pigment, Kongo
16th–17th century (central figure); 18th–19th century (top and bottom figures)
Pendant: Saint Anthony of Padua, Partially hollow cast brass, Kongo peoples; Kongo Kingdom
Kongo peoples; Kongo Kingdom
16th–19th century
Prestige Staff: Saint Anthony of Padua, Brass, wood, Kongo peoples
Kongo peoples
19th century
Figurative Element from Ceremonial Drum [?]: Seated Female and Child, Wood, pigment, resin, nails, Mbembe peoples
Mbembe peoples
15th–17th century
Staff : Finial with Kneeling Female Figure, Master of Kasadi Workshop, Wood, iron, metal strips, Kongo peoples; Yombe group
19th–early 20th century
Engraving of Firearms Parts, Perrier  French, Ink on paper, French, Strasbourg
ca. 1750

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Giuntini, Christine, James Green, Ellen G. Howe, Adriana Rizzo, Kristen Windmuller-Luna, Alisa LaGamma, Phyllis Martin, John K. Thornton, Josiah Blackmore, and Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.), eds. 2015. Kongo: Power and Majesty. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.