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Reliquary Guardian Figure (Eyema-o-Byeri)

Arts of Africa

In this Fang reliquary figure, the male form is reduced to basic shapes—cylinders and circles—echoing the cylindrical reliquary box on which the figure sat. It demonstrates a distinctly different approach to the human form than the Western tradition of naturalism. The artist has accentuated some parts of the body over others, invoking Fang ideas about showing the connection between death and rebirth by combining infantile forms with more mature characteristics.
MEDIUM Wood, iron
  • Place Made: Gabon
  • DATES mid-18th to mid-19th century
    DIMENSIONS 23 × 5 3/4 × 5 in. (58.4 × 14.6 × 12.7 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CREDIT LINE Frank L. Babbott Fund
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION An Ntem River Valley Master. Reliquary Guardian Figure (Eyema-o-Byeri), mid-18th to mid-19th century. Wood, iron, 23 × 5 3/4 × 5 in. (58.4 × 14.6 × 12.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Frank L. Babbott Fund, 51.3. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: , 51.3_overall_PS9.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 51.3_overall_PS9.jpg., 2019
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION The object is a male ancestor figure carved from a single piece of wood wearing a thick copper alloy necklace. The figure was probably attached to a skull basket that was used in connection with ancestor worship. The object is in fair condition. It has several deep splits. One particular split runs from the left side of the buttock, up the spine, over the head, and into the forehead. There is another deep split on the back side of the head. The front half of the proper right foot is missing. From an unknown cause, dry-rot settled on the bottom of the figure under the seat. The original surface is gone leaving a concave depression. The object was fumigated with carbon tetrachloride; the hole was filled with gesso, retouched, and waxed.
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