Museums Objects Research

Object of the day: a Kongo-Vili figure

Kongo-Vili figure; height: 38,5 cm. Image courtesy of the Musée du quai Branly (#71.1930.29.322).
Kongo-Vili figure; height: 38,5 cm. Image courtesy of the Musée du quai Branly (#71.1930.29.322).

The variations in African art never fail to suprise. By coincidence I just found this funny Kongo-Vili figure with its head turned slightly sidewards. It was donated to the Musée de l’Homme by Stéphan Chauvet in 1930. I had never encountered this particular position of the hands before; it certainly had a meaning. I would guess this figure was never used, though the face got painted, there’s one metal nail inserted in the chest and traces of a round fetish box on the torso remain?

The Musée du quai Branly holds 267.417 objects (236.509 from the old Musée de l’Homme and 22 740 from the Musée national des arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie) – not only African of course. Additionally, since 1998 the museum has acquired 8168 objects. It’s not clear how many items are already in their online database, but surely enough to have lots of fun. You can search the digital collections of the Musée du quai Branly here. Type a keyword in the Saisir la recherche box below the Sélectionner un critère de recherche tab. The acquisition date itself is never listed, but one can deduce it from the inventory number.

Trivia of the day: Stéphan Chauvet was the author of the first illustrated compendium of information about Easter Island, L’Île de Pâques et Ses Mystères (1935), you can find a translation of it here, a must read for the armchair traveller.

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