A sublime representation of the ancestor, the effigy from a dreamlike imagination protected the deceased. The Kota reliquary guardian attracts attention and desire. It subjugates and amazes the spectator. It fascinates, captivates, and shines with beauty, thwarting the spectator of the sacred ancestor relics. The figure represents the mystical beauty of the protected relics. Decorated with Gabonese gold, it is easy to understand why their beauty amazed Jean-Pierre Laprugne, who in his collection possessed seven figures of enchanting splendour.
Dressed in metal and decorated with copper and brass, the ancestral effigies of Gabon are equally illustrious as classics responding to a stylistic archetype. The subtlety of the variants of styles of these guardians is unparalleled. No one figure resembles another, even if they may belong to groups of pre-determined styles. Each is unique in its expression, by the techniques of brass application and metal cutting employed.
“The metal of European origin, due to its origin and its high cost, should enjoy a certain prestige“, writes Frédéric Cloth5. Brass dishes were introduced by Europeans into Shamaye territory as a means to trade. Often referred to the ‘gold of the world’, the metal crossed into far-off regions of Gabon, to reach the hands that would shape them with talent and ingenuity.
Ethnic Group: Kota
Object: Boho na Bwete (Reliquary Figure)
Materials: Wood, copper, brass
Provenance: Laprugne Collection, Paris
Lot 64 Dimensions: Height = 14 inches
Lot 64 Estimate: $433,000 – $649,000
“Both realistic and abstract, the figures of reliquaries sum up in their immutable gravity, the fascinating and disturbing mystery of the ambiguous relationship between death and life, that is to say, the essential metaphysical preoccupations of the Kota.”
Louis Perrois, Mains of Masters, Brussels 2001
Seizing and surprising, astonishing in expression, prodigious quality and subtle rhythmic proportions—this reliquary, apart from belonging to the oldest style, has an exceptional abstraction. A stunning masterpiece of the past, and an incredible avant-garde masterpiece, this Kota is among a corpus that has inspired the greatest modernist of our time, Picasso. In this work lies the magic timelessness of artistic beauty that goes through the centuries. Even more, this Kota effigy carries with it the history of the Obamba past, its socio-cultural, religious values and a breathtaking ingenuity and originality.
Remarkable expressiveness, captivating power, suppleness, and vital dynamism breathed into the figure by the relaxed lines of the diamond body, by the play between the mass of its full and empty shapes, creating a remarkable tension between the geometric volumes. Topped with a long neck where brass and wood are interwoven. The oval face, elongated and accentuated by a heart shaped demarcation, and its mouth open in surprise, highlight the force of the effigy’s astonished look.