Lot: 179

95th Tribal Art Auction

Rare courtly shrine figure, 17th/18th century

Nigeria, Ife

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Allan Stone, New York, USA H: 52.4 inch 26000 EUR
plus 23 % commission, VAT, transport and insurance

wood, surface structure strongly marked by insect caused damage and weathering, overpainting in several layers (red, white, black), peeled off in parts, missing parts, base This figure can be considered a rarity. Only one comparable figure could be found in literature, which was collected by Willem E. Geyskens in the mid-1960s and exhibited at the Parcours des Mondes in Paris in September 2012 (AHDRC 0109079). In addition to their imposing size, both figures show similarities in posture and, above all, courtly dress style (necklaces, hip skirt, high conical headgear). According to mythology, the Yoruba city-state of Ife was the place where the gods descended and created the world. The oldest archaeological traces of Ife lead back to the 4th century. Urban structures are attested since the 11th century. The medieval heyday of the city is dated to the 13th century. Ife has been the religious center of the Yoruba people since ancient times, where the palace of "oni", the priestly head of all the kings of Yorubaland was (and still is) located. This figure can be seen in connection with this courtly high culture.