African Art: a prestigious Swiss collection

Milan, Wednesday 14 October 2020


Yuruba (Nigeria)

Ivory with natural, amber patina
H 32 cm

Iroke Ifa divinatory object.
This sculpture, the end of an elephant’s tusk, represents a kneeling female figure, with the arms attached to the body and the hands over the breasts.It is carved down to the smallest detail following the designs of Yoruba art. Prolonged use has given the surface of the ivory a glossy amber-coloured coating. The Iroke Ifa is a ritual instrument used by a soothsayer to contract the oracle named Ifa, a deity of the Yoruba pantheon. The soothsayer sits facing their client and, to invoke the deity, throws sixteen kola nuts onto a tray. They observe the position that the nuts fall in, moving them with the tip of the tusk, allowing him to interpret the reply received from the oracle.


€ 13.000 - 15.000

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- Maria Wyss gallery antique collection (Basle) (*);
- Former Paolo Morigi collection (Lugano);
- Former private collection (Lugano);


- Zurich 2001, Rietberg Museum, Zurich, April 2001, Maria Wyss Collection, num. 62;
- Lugano 2002, Palazzo Riva, Banca Svizzera Italiana (BSI);


- VENTURI LUCA M. “Anime antiche, arte negra, da una raccolta di sculture dell’Africa occidentale” BSI Bank, Lugano 2002, fig. 61;

- FAGG WILLIAM “Yoruba sculptures of West Africa” New York 1982, pages 123, 190 and 191;

(*) Maria Wyss. Based in Basle since the ‘50s, she became famous as a photographer and the owner of a gallery for primitive art from Africa, Oceania and America. Some of her pieces have been sold in Christie’s and Sotheby’s auctions. In 1962, her gallery was mentioned in the catalogue published on the occasion of a prestigious exhibition organised by William Fagg in Basle, dedicated to 300 works from Nigeria (Benin, Ife, etc.) - FAGG WILLIAM “Nigeria 2000 Jahre Plastik” Kunsthalle Basle 1962 In 1971, for the great exhibition at Villa Hügel in Essen, where 300 worksfrom museums and collectors were put on display, she participated in the event and provided a Yoruba Ibeji Twin (cat. 171). - VOLPRECHT KLAUS “Afrika - Kunst am Niger - Katalog” Villa Hügel, Essen 1971
In the course of her career, she has sold important works to collectors and museums. She collaborated with the Rietberg Museum in Zurich and a dozen of her Dan and Guro African sculptures can be found in each of the following catalogues published by the Museum:
- FISCHER EBERHARD & HIMMELHEBER HANS "Die Kunst der Dan" Rietberg Museum Zurich 1976;
- FISCHER EBERHARD & HOMBERGER LORENZ "Die Kunst der Guro" Rietberg Museum Zurich 1985;

In 2004, the Galerie Vogler in Basle sold the “Collection of Maria and Paul Wyss”. Hundreds of works from the most significant groups in Africa were sold: Dogon, Bambara, Senufo, Baulé, Yoruba, Ibo, Fang, Bakongo, Chockwe. Advertising insert taken from the magazine “Arts d’Afrique Noire” num. 131,Autumn 2004, page 45;


African Art

Via Paolo Sarpi, 6 - milano
Phone: 02 3363801