African Art: a prestigious Swiss collection

Milan, Wednesday 14 October 2020


Hemba (Democratic Republic of Congo)

Hard wood with dark natural patina
H 63 cm
Figure of an ancestor. 
South-eastern region of the Congo marked by the courses of the rivers Lualaba and Lomami.
This is a male character depicted upright with his head support by a strong neck. He holds his arm away from his body with hands on his stomach, short legs without feet, supported by the circular base. His face is marked with large lips and eyes emphasised in an arch. His forehead encloses the typical “Katanga cross” hairstyle at the back. His thin beard, made with a double row of square engravings, is the characteristic reserved for high-ranking members.The entire work, with its volumes, express all the power of the Hemba portraits.


€ 8.000 - 10.000

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- Former Paolo Morigi collection (Lugano);
- Former private collection (Lugano);


- Lugano 2002, Palazzo Riva, Banca Svizzera Italiana (BSI);


Reproduced in:
- VENTURI LUCA M. “Anime antiche, arte negra, da una raccolta di sculture dell’Africa occidentale” BSI Bank, Lugano 2002, fig. 50;
- LOUDMER  & POULAIN "Arts Primitifs" Paris asta del 21 e 22 Marzo 1980, lotto 409 (*);

- NEYT FRANCOIS & DE STRYCKER LOUIS “Approche des arts Hemba” Villiers-le Bel, France 1975;

The Hemba group, which belongs culturally to the great Luba people, is located in the region that surrounds Kongolo, a village on the right bank of the high Congo, 150km to the west of Lake Tanganica, in the equatorial forest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire.These sculptures, called “singiti” in the local language, are of a founding ancestor of a royal dynasty or a great warrior chief. They were kept by high-ranking members of the village in homes designed for worshiping ancestors, but they were also venerated by every family in their own home, where they were kept in specific storage rooms or small corners.Considered to be amongst the most prestigious works of Black Africa, these figures have several easily identifiable characteristics: its position facing the front, male sex, a large head compared to its height, detached arms, hands on its stomach and hairstyle that closes behind the neck in the pattern of a cross.

(*) In the catalog of the sale of March 22, 1980 this statue was described by the expert français Charles Ratton as follows:
Ancestor figure, statuette of a bearded man, standing, his hands resting on his hips. The hairstyle is decorated with two braids crossing at right angles. Cylindrical base. Zaire, Hemba. High 0.62 m (8.000/10.000 F.F)


African Art

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