74 (page 96) IMPORTANT LEGA IVORY HEAD, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO Ivory with honey-coloured patina, slight erosion to base
Exhibited in New York in 1978 and published in the African Ivories catalogue, May 10 - June 20 1978 by F. Rolin & Co., Inc. (n.22). Among all the anthropomorphic figurines used during initiatory rites in Bwami society, large ivory heads seem to represent a completely separate category. There appear to be very few of them, and they have been carefully preserved on behalf of the community by the initiated person of the highest rank, or are owned by him, and have a central role when the statuettes are ritually exhibited. They, like the other sculptures, are linked to traditional customs, and are most often named individually in an indirect way in relation to the ruling values of Bwami teachings. To make this important work, the sculptor wanted the head to be perfectly eggshaped and delicately placed in equilibrium on a tapered neck. So as not to disturb the harmony of the construction, the ears are evoked with a simple engraving. The face is designed as a stylised heart, divided in the middle by a long, elegant nose with a pronounced bridge. The eyes are supplied by cowry shells fixed with resin into the eye sockets, and the mouth is shown by a simple cut. This Lega work is a real manifesto in favour of simplicity and abstraction in the field of the plastic arts. Simple in appearance, it has a dignified and contemplative expression - but filled with great nobility - in a language that is close to the style developed by 20th century sculptors following in the footsteps of Constantin Brancusi. According to a letter written by the merchant Michel Koenig to the collector André Gaillard, its owner at the time (1999), this important ivory statue was discovered by Governor Louis Peigneux (in about 1925) and since then had been a vital part of his collection.
75 (page 98) PINDA IVORY FIGURE, ANGOLA Ivory with honey-coloured patina
Origin: - Collection acquired in Angola, circa 1955 - Private collection Exceptional sculpted Pinda ivory of a Janus effigy, with a reliquary cavity at the top. On one side, the male figure has an oval head and coffee-bean-shaped eyes, with an elongated almond-shaped mouth. Ritual marks been made all across the cheeks and forehead, while the back of the skull is prolonged by an impressive headdress with a double fin shape. On the other side, the headpiece becomes a two-part face, the meeting point of the two chignons forming a nose divided lower down into a short mouth. The arms provide the architecture supported by a simple base. The proportions, the intertwining of the two worlds, figurative and abstract, is absolutely remarkable. The well-known story of the administrative seizure for acts of witchcraft of three Pinda ivory objects in 1948 in the Museu Nacional de Etnologia (MNE), Lisbon, N° 59, 60, 61 of "Angolan Sculpture", helps us know a little more about the Pinda. A fourth sculpture is reproduced, n° 62, which had been previously published by Macedo and Montalvon in 1934 (fig. 39). We have here a rare body of work with four sculptures in Pinda ivory, and will see three others that belonged to a Nganga (priest-faith healer): of the three objects, one was sold at Sotheby's on 2 December (reproduced in lot 78) and the two others are shown here. The Pinda, like the Ovimbundu (better known to collectors) or the Nkhumbi, are peoples living in contact with the Angolan coast to the south of the capital Luanda. In a body of work now including seven ivory statuettes, all busts, five show the projecting bilobed hairstyle that sets them apart from other Angolan objects. Apart from one, red powder (tukula) has been applied to them with the aim of increasing their powers. They also have a deep cavity at the top of the head, which probably contained human teeth, if we base ourselves on the example (n°59) in the M.N.E., which still has two teeth, again with the objective of increasing the powers of the Nganga objects. From the group of six objects with similar characteristics