A new addition to my growing list of online databases to bookmark: you can now explore the collection of Saint Petersburg’s Kunstkamera museum here (in English!). As this collection is not very well documented, and publications about it are scarce, this online database is even more valuable – it’s not that we are allowed to travel there these days anyway.
The collection could use some vetting as there are a few questionable objects (such as a group of “Kongo” power figures, or a Luba headrest in the style of the Master of the Cascade Coiffure), and the majority of the material is ethnographic in nature, yet there are enough gems in there to take the time to scroll through the 1984 African items (here). Noteworthy is the group of objects collected by Alfred Mansfeld (including some very early Cross River headdresses), and a group of archaic chiwara headdresses from the Bamana people from Mali collected by Leo Frobenius. There’s also a group of Benin bronzes, and an important batch of early Zande & Mangbetu objects collected by Wilhelm Junker. What’s cool about the database is that you can search on these collectors and immediately get to see all objects in the museum’s possession.
Don’t forget to also take the time to scroll through the Oceanic holdings, including some early Hawaii and Easter Islands collections – among other treasures. But maybe the collection that has the most art-historical importance is the group of 18th century Tlingit masks.. the stuff of dreams!