Lot: 306

Maternité "phemba" ("pfemba")

D. R. Congo, Vili

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Ludwig Bretschneider, Munich, Germany
Klaus Hummel, Korb, Germany (1967-80)

Hummel (1939-2006) was an antiques dealer. Collecting African Art was his private hobby. Between 1967 and 1980, he bought and bartered a multitude of ancient African masks and figurines predominantly during his trips to Mr. Bretschneider in Munich and to Mr. Krieg in Neuenkirchen.
H: 10.2 inch 25000 EUR / 50000 EUR

wood, pigments, glass, metal, rest. (right forearm), small missing part (pipe stem), base This figure represents an exquisite example of the classic mother-child figure, carved from fire-blackened "golden wood". Mother-child representations are known throughout the Congo region as "phemba". They are regarded as homage to the primordial mother, who is the guardian of fertility and thus the guarantor for the continuity of the community. It shows a still young woman with a slender form and small breasts.The eyes are inlaid with glass and her open mouth shows ritually filed teeth. She wears a pointed "mpu" hood with fine engravings and with her right hand she puts a pipe in her mouth - all symbols of high rank and dignity. This type of presentation reflects the special appreciation that is shown to women in the matrilinear societies of the Congo area. The child with its rounded body shapes, drawn-up legs and the hand reaching for the mothers breast is very realistically and vividly carved. This shows that the carvers incorporated observations from real life into their works of carving. Some mother figures, like the one at hand, have openings that were once charged with power ingredients, which made them "minkisi". This figure can be stylistically integrated into a group of works that Lehuard in his monograph on the art of the Bakongo, assigned to the Vili, substyle D3 ("Art Bakongo, Les Centres de Style, 1989, pp. 226 ff.)


Lehuard, Raoul, Art Bakongo, Les Centres de Style, o.O. 1989 Baeke, Viviane (ed.), Treasures from the Africa-Museum Tervuren, Tervuren 1995, p. 289 f. Grootaers, Jan-Lodewijk & Ineke Eisenburger (ed.), Forms of Wonderment, Vol. II, Berg en Dal 2002, p. 57

ADHRC: 0178131