African Art: a prestigious Swiss collection

Milan, Wednesday 14 October 2020


Kuba (Democratic Republic of Congo)

Wood with a dark coating, traces of tukula dust (*)
H 42 cm

Portrait sculpture of an ancestor.
Region of the Bushoong between the courses of the rivers Kasai and Sankuru.
It represents the stylised image of a high-ranking woman in the hierarchy of the Kuba people. The wealthy hairstyle and refined body tattoos demonstrate the woman’s importance. The geometric designs decorating her figure are characteristic of the Kuba tradition.


€ 8.000 - 10.000

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- George F. Keller antique collection (New York / Davos) (Inv. G.F.K. 275);
- Former Paolo Morigi collection (Lugano);
- Former private collection (Lugano);


Reproduced in:
- MORIGI PAOLO “Raccolta di un amatore d’arte primitiva” Magliaso, Lugano & Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland 1980, fig. 277, page 308;
- VENTURI LUCA M. “Anime antiche, arte negra, da una raccolta di sculture dell’Africa occidentale” BSI Bank, Lugano 2002, fig. 42;

- FELIX MARK LEO “100 Peoples of Zaire and their sculpture: Kuba, pages 62-63”, Brussels 1987;
- CORNET JOSEPH “Art de l’Afrique Noire au pays du fleuve Zaire” Brussels 1972, pages 120-140;
- ROBBINS M. WARREN & NOOTER NANCY INGRAM “African art in American Collections” 2004 Atglen, PA-USA, page 421;

- LEUZINGER ELSY "Afrique" Paris 1962;
- BAMERT ARNOLD "Africa: Tribal art of forest and savanna" London 1980, pag. 238, fig.162;

aaa- Berna 1980, Musée des Beaux Arts;
- Lugano 2002, Palazzo Riva, Banca Svizzera Italiana (BSI);

The Kuba people represented the portraits of their kings, upon whom they bestowed a divine character. This is a sculpting tradition that was passed down from generation to generation. Sculpture was very rare because they did not worship their ancestors: we only know of a few examples of high-ranking people and dignitaries. Their productive craft turned instead to masks, dance helmets, royal tambourines, and other court objects like goblets, boxes, and pipes; all objects made with great skill in the carved surfaces, following the designs of the ancient tradition of raffia fabrics that spread through the Kasai region.

(*) “This is a red wood dust (bark of Pterocarpus) mixed with fat. It protects against termites and its red colour has a symbolic meaning. The indigenous people rub their skin with it, as well as greasing their dead and their ancestors’ sculptures with it.” Elsy Leuzinger 1972, page 240.


African Art

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