African Art: a prestigious Swiss collection

Milan, Wednesday 14 October 2020


Yoruba, region of Abeokuta (south-eastern Nigeria)

Wood with a dark coating and scaling
Male sculpture: H 27.5 cm / Female sculpture: H 28.5 cm
Figure for worship, pair of twins called “Ibeji”.
Two sculptures carved following designs that have a long history and tradition in southern Nigeria and the Republic of Benin. It is a type of art that is recognisable, and which has been passed down through time thanks to the creative push of the many sculptors who worked in atelier, even if they were separated by distance.


€ 6.000 - 8.000

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- Maria Wyss gallery antique collection (Basle) (see lot 33);
- 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. 55;

- FAGG WILLIAM “Yoruba: Sculpture of West Africa” New York 1982, page 81;
- MERLO CHRISTIAN “Ibedji, hohovi, venavi: Les statuettes rituelles de jumeaux en civilisation beninoise” Article published in French magazine Arts d’Afrique Noire, Summer 1977, num. 22, pages 16 - 31;
- STOLL MAREIDI & GERT STOLL & Cooperation Ulrich Klever “IBEJI: Twin Figures of the Yoruba” Munich, Germany 1980;

These small sculptures, both male and female, represent twins. The birth of two or more twins is considered to be an important event in some Nigerian groups. If such an event occurs, the village sculptor is asked by the lucky parents to prepare the Ibeji, this pair of little statues who share the same sex as the newborn twins.They form a close spiritual bond with their owners. These sculptures are kept and treated with optimum care throughout the twins’ lives. If one passes away, their bond continues through the small statue, which becomes the incarnation of the deceased twin’s spirit. Only after the death of both twins do the statues lose their meaning and sacred value, and, therefore, can be given away.


African Art

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