African Art: a prestigious Swiss collection

Milan, Wednesday 14 October 2020


Lobi, region of Bouna (Burkina Faso)

Hardwood with a crusted coating
H 65 cm
Female figure of an ancestor.
Female sculpture carved according to Lobi tradition. The body, facing the front, is depicted with its arms out, a prominent navel and legs of exaggerated dimensions. Its head, held up by a powerful neck, is marked with shaved hair in line with the region’s fashion. The mouth allows a glimpse of a labial plate, a distinctive archaic mark. The heavy hardwood is covered with a thick, crusted coating.


€ 10.000 - 12.000

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- Former Edmond Morlet collection (Brussels) (*);
- Former Paolo Morigi collection (Lugano) (Morigi inventory label num. 416);
- 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. 78;

- HOLAS B. “Arts de la Cote d’Ivoire: Les trésors du Musée d’Abidjan” Vevey 1969, page 162;
- KERCHACHE JAQUES “Scultura Africana: Omaggio a André Malraux” Rome 1986, pages 90-105;
- ANTONGINI GIOVANNA & SPINI TITO “Il cammino degli antenati: I Lobi dell’Alto Volta” Bari 1981;
- BOGNOLO DANIELA “Visions d’Afrique: Lobi” Milan 2007;
- SKOUGSTAD NORMAN "Traditional Sculpture from Upper Volta " New York The African American Institute 1978, page 30;
- GOY BERTRAND “Cote d’Ivoire - Premieres regards sur la sculpture - 1850 / 1935” Paris 2012, page 135

The Lobi people form a population of 250,000 individuals who are located in Ghana, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso. They are farmers and raise livestock, living in villages and large families. Each village has a shrine where sculptures are kept. Lobi people also worship within their family setting, with great dedication paid upon ancestors, who protect the family. Every house is built with terraced bricks and is inhabited by several associated families. It includes an underground room used as the shrine. It is here that the clan’s elder carries out sacrifices to request favours from the deceased and to try to abate the suffering of everyday life. The statues, which are kept there, protect the house. They are the vehicle that connects spirits and men, and represent the ghosts of the deceased or the spirits of the woods. Their average height varies between 30cm and 80cm. During these rituals, the statues are the object of animal sacrifices. Their direct contact with the damp, underground earth causes visible damage to the wood, especially on the lower parts.Lobi statues also contain a representation of an asymmetrical human figure, depicted with the limbs and various parts of the body in unusual positions. This inclination is a rare sight in African art.

(*) Edmond Morlet (Brussels). Morlet was a Belgian trader based in Brussels before the Second World War. In 1930, he travelled to the then-Belgian Congo where he collected several Yombe works, among other things. In 1935, one of his Wobé masks was put on display at the Ethnographic Museum of Geneva (MEG). His most important work, a Mbole statue, which depicted someone who had been hanged (Ofika), was acquired in 1955 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York (MET) after passing through various collections.


African Art

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