Bruce Frank Primitive Art
New York City, NY
+1 917 733 9589

Shrine Figure

Fon, Benin
19th c.

Previous Collections: Jim Willis, San Francisco. Private collection, Boston

Most Fon figures known today are quite powerful with their accumulated surfaces; but for the most part, they lack aesthetic beauty. This figure is incredibly powerful while at the same time being truly beautiful. To fully appreciate the age of this piece; the heavy encrusted surface needs to be touched. The accumulation is extreme from generations of libations. The carving genius doesn’t end with a beautifully rendered mystical face; the finely sculpted body possesses great negative and positive space. With a snake climbing up the body of the figure it’s truly a wonderful sculpture.

House Façade Figure

Mamasa, Sulawesi, Indonesia
19th c.

Provenance: Martin and Faith Dorian Wright collection, NY. By descent to family member

In the high terrain surrounding Mamasa on the island of Sulawesi, high-ranking Toraja erected ornately decorated houses called tongkonan. On Sulawesi, noble houses glorified one’s lineage and created a living connection to ancestors.  The tongkonan reflected a stratified and symbolic place for humans between the heavenly upper and earthly lower realms. Only in the Mamasa region were figurative carvings placed both on the exterior cardinal corners and the outer walls of an exalted house. Sharply chiseled to pick up natural light, this figure represents a clan founder or an important ancestor; it was placed at high elevation to be viewed from below as a sentinel created to exude prowess and prestige.

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