Seated Male Figure

Small, carved male figure, seated atop a block, with legs crossed. The naturalism with which the expressive face is carved, the high crested coiffure (or chiefly cap?) and the progressive foreshortening of the body show the importance given to the head in Yombe aesthetics. The figure's eyes are mirrored glass, and the upper body, face and head are studded with brass tacks. A slight vertical crack can be seen at the figure's sternum. The Yombe figure was identified for UMMA by Allen Roberts and Mary (Polly) Nooter Roberts. There was a discrepency regarding the dating of the piece: the export paperwork said "circa 1830", but the dealer's catalogue said early 19th c. When asked to help resolve the dating, Polly Nooter Roberts replied: "As for the Yombe figure, I can tell you with certainty that it is NOT early 20th century, and is definitely from the 19th century, if not earlier. I cannot confirm the 1830 date, but I would be more inclined to believe that than the early 20th century. So, I think you can confidently say 19th century, and perhaps you can go ahead and use the paperwork that says 1830 since that was supplied with it." See e-mail to Carole McNamara, 1/12/00.
Artist Unknown, African, Yombe Peoples Democratic Republic of the Congo
This figure is an idealized representation of an honored ancestor. Though separated by death, ancestors in Yombe culture remain an active part of the living world. Figures such as this were displayed in shrines to commemorate important individuals and to seek their protection, intercession and good will.
Museum purchase made possible by the David L. Chambers and John G. Crane Fund for Acquisitions
Saturday, August 13, 2022