To perform their main function as a deterrent guardian of a reliquary chest of the byeri, these characters are male, highly sexualized with powerful rounded muscles. The three-pointed headdress is a warrior attribute. Yet the big head, the prominent navel and the short limbs have the proportions of a newborn child.
At the beginning of the 20th century European artists were seduced by this model of which all the known examples are of a perfect execution. The Fang-Mvai figure evokes the whole cycle of life in one character without losing any of its aesthetic balance. Expression in art does not need realism to arouse the emotion.
On June 15, 2011 Sotheby's sold for € 2,6M including premium one of these statuettes 53 cm high.
Another example 46 cm high is estimated $ 3M for sale by Sotheby's in New York on May 14, lot 16. With its patina still oozing the ritual palm oil, it is one of the most desirable pieces of tropical African art.
SOLD for $ 3.5M including premium