Full length bodies referred to family ancestors although their naturalistic appearance does not constitute recognizable portraits. They were used in ceremonies. Heads are rarer and had a more intimate ritual role. Coated with oil and powder, they were more likely designed to communicate with the primordial ancestor.
The Fang head for sale by Sotheby's in Paris on December 12 has a great history of provenance and exhibition at the time when that type of work was rightly considered as the best demonstration of the virtuosity of African artists. Louis Carré exhibited it in Paris in 1933. He sent it and commented on it in 1935 for the seminal exhibition of African art at the MoMA, also indicating the name of the collector who had brought it back from Gabon.
It retains a patina of use as well as traces of erosion created by ritual sampling. The curves are perfect without chisel error. This piece is estimated € 1,5M, lot 24.
Despite its naturalistic beauty it cannot be identified if this figure is a beardless man or a woman. The braid hairstyle does not close this issue in the Fang culture. It is likely that this ambiguity was voluntary and may be related to the ancient African tradition of hermaphroditic interpretation of the primordial ancestor.
Please watch the short video shared by Sotheby's.
SOLD for € 2.63M including premium