Tag Archives: Pende

A first important success for my inscriptions database

Pende mask, D.R. Congo. Height: 30 cm. Image courtesy of Studio Philippe de Formanoir - Paso Doble.

Pende mask, D.R. Congo. Height: 30 cm. Image courtesy of Studio Philippe de Formanoir – Paso Doble. Collection Javier Peres, Berlin.

The above Pende pumbu mask was acquired with my assistance at BRAFA in Brussels in January. While inspecting the mask, I spotted the below inventory number on the inside of the mask. While the dealer had missed it, I immediately recognized the style of this inscription..

Kongo-Kunst tentoonstelling Pende Mask Olbrechts Stadsfeestzaal 1937

I had seen this type of labeling before and was pretty sure it was done by Frans M. Olbrechts for his 1937 exhibition in Antwerp’s Stadsfeestzaal. Back home, I consulted the (rare) exhibition catalogue and checked the upper number of the inscription (92), which proved to be a Pende mask! Note that the majority of objects in the catalogue was not illustrated. However, a second confirmation that this mask was in the famed ‘Tentoonstelling van Kongo Kunst‘ came in the form of the lower line of the inscription: it starts with an abbreviation of the consignor (DERA), followed by the number of the object consigned by that collector. As the catalogue listed J.V. De Raadt as the consignor for mask no. 92, it’s certain the above mask was in the 1937 exhibition. I haven’t been able to identify the second inventory number, but it looks even older. So, I (and the masks’s new owner with me) am very happy that after all these years, an important piece of the object’s history was rediscovered.

Pende Mask Kongo Kunst Olbrechts

ps a day of sleuthing later revealed the existence of two more masks from this carver, see below. The mask on the left is in the Collection Museum aan de Stroom (former Ethnographic Museum), Antwerp (AE.0551), and was purchased from Henri Pareyn on 13 April 1920; the mask on the right was sold in Paris by Boisgirard on 19 February 1968 (lot 110) – its current whereabouts are unknown.

Pende mask pumbu Bruno Claessens Pareyn Etnographic Museum Antwerp

 

 

 

Robert Verly’s influence on the art of the Kasaï (D.R. Congo)

Robert Verly in the atelier of Kaluesha in the region of Tshikapa, ca. 1956. Photo by Carlo Lamote, Inforcongo.

Robert Verly in the atelier of Kaluesha in the region of Tshikapa, ca. 1956. Photo by Carlo Lamote, Inforcongo.

I don’t have the time to research it myself, but somebody should write a Ph. D. on the influence of Belgian colonial administrators on the postwar artistic production of Congo and the  accompanying establishment of workshops. This largely forgotten episode of Congo’s art history took place near the end of Belgium’s colonial rule. Administrators, like Robert Verly, were instigated to find the last surviving sculptors and set up ateliers to preserve and pass on their craftsmanship. Verly’s intentions were pure, as he wanted to stop the  westernization of traditional Congolese art. Commissioned by Belgian amateurs, many carvers had ceased to create masks and figures and invented a whole new body of work suited for the external market – every Belgian family still has pieces like this. Verly wanted to protect the Congolese sculptors from external influences and stimulate the continued development of the indigenous art styles. Verly’s first ‘social workshop for indigenous art’ was founded in 1955 in Tshchikapa (see above). In the following years Verly would open about 20 more of them in the Kasaï region. As the Belgian photographer Carlo Lamote (from the press agency Inforcongo) at the time visited Verly, images of some of these ateliers and their production exist. Half a century later, as the history of these workshops is largely forgotten, many of these masks and statues unfortunately are now sold as the real thing…

Robert Verly in the workshop of Kaseya-Ntambwe (here instructing an apprentice) in Kandolo-Mututwa. Photo by Carlo Lamote, Inforcongo, ca. 1956.

Robert Verly in the workshop of Kaseya-Ntambwe (on the left, while instructing an apprentice) in Kandolo-Mututwa. Photo by Carlo Lamote, Inforcongo, ca. 1956.

UPDATE: I was very happy to learn that there is a scholar working on the subject! Read more about Sarah Van Beurden’s research project Planning a Colonial Cultural Economy: Arts and Crafts in the Belgian Congo (1930-1960) here. Today I also encountered the below sticker on the bottom of a terra-cotta pot lid in a Chokwe style (but made in Katanga) in a private collection.

protection des art indigènes Katanga Congo

Caveat emptor: a Pende mask from Picasso’s collection ? (now in English)

Pende mask forged Picasso signature

As you know I’m very interested in old collection numbers inscribed on African objects, so I found the following story rather fascinating. Boudewijn Meijer from Artwis.com has translated the German news story about a court case featuring a Pende mask with a fake Picasso signature: “Berlin’s Picasso Mystery: an African mask, a forger, art dealers and a gynecologist“. I had previously posted about it here, but now the original article is also available in English, plus some additional thoughts by the author – definitely worth the read.

 

Auction: Native, Brussels, 25 January 2014

Image courtesy of Native.

Image courtesy of Native.

The catalogue for the next Native sale in Brussels (info) is online, you can browse it here. A rare find is this beautiful anthropomorphic Pende cup (height: 21 cm; info). It was brought back at the end of the 19th century by Alfred Dewevre (1866-1897), botanist for the Independent state of Congo from 1895 until his premature death, and remained in the family until now.

African art at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Protective fertility figure (yanda)  Zande people, Democratic Republic of the Congo  Late 19th – early 20th century  Wood  H (without stand): 24.5; W (without stand): 9.5 cm  Gift of Lawrence Gussman, Scarsdale, New York, to American Friends of the Israel Museum, in memory of Dr. Albert Schweitzer  Accession number: B98.0061. Courtesty of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

Protective figure (yanda). Zande people, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Wood. H: 24.5 cm. Gift of Lawrence Gussman, Scarsdale, New York, to American Friends of the Israel Museum, in memory of Dr. Albert Schweitzer. (#B98.0061) Courtesty of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

Often forgotten, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem holds an interesting collection of African art. It received its first objects from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas in the 1950s. The bulk of Precolumbian, African, Oceanic, and North American art was donated by major collectors in the late seventies (for example Lawrence Gussman, Gaston T. de Havenon, Daniel Solomon and others). Over the years many more unique and rare individual pieces were given, as were whole collections, which came from the United States, Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Amrouche, de Monbrison, Entwistle, Kerchache, Guimiot – they all donated objects. As the collection grew, the department experienced a number of major changes in concept, eventually crystallizing into the Department for the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. The department’s steadily growing collection today numbers over 6,500 objects from diverse cultural traditions, spanning four continents and four millennia.

The online collection shows 365 objects from Africa; browse them here.

171 objects are also featured in Douglas Newton’s book African and Oceanic Art in Jerusalem.

Seated figure. Jenne-Jeno area, Mali. 1000-1300 CE. Terracotta. H: 41 cm. Gift of Philippe Guimiot, Brussels (# B83.0754) Courtesy The Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

Seated figure. Jenne-Jeno area, Mali. 1000-1300 CE. Terracotta. H: 41 cm. Gift of Philippe Guimiot, Brussels (# B83.0754) Courtesy The Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

Stool. Pende people, Democratic Republic of the Congo. ca. late 19th century-early 20th century. Wood. H: 23.5 cm; Diam: 23.5 cm. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David Heller, Woodmere, New York, to American Friends of the Israel Museum (#B82.0254). Image courtesy of The Israel Museum.

Stool. Pende people, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Wood. H: 23.5 cm; Diam: 23.5 cm. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David Heller, Woodmere, New York, to American Friends of the Israel Museum (#B82.0254). Courtesy of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

Female figure. Dan people, Cote d'Ivoire  Late 19th - early 20th century. Wood, leather, metal. H: 40 cm. Gift of Faith-dorian and Martin Wright, New York, to American Friends of the Israel Museum, in memory of Abraham Janoff. (# B92.1591) Courtesy Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

Female figure. Dan, Ivory Coast. Wood, leather, metal. H: 40 cm. Gift of Faith-dorian and Martin Wright, New York, to American Friends of the Israel Museum, in memory of Abraham Janoff. (# B92.1591) Courtesy Israel Museum, Jerusalem.