Title: Reliquary Guardian Figure
Date: before 1910
Artist: Unidentified Fang artist (Betsi subgroup)
Medium: wood, brass, iron
Dimensions:
figure: 19 1/2 in. x 6 1/4 in. x 6 in. (49.5 x 15.9 x 15.2 cm)
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object Number: 23:1942
Place associated: Woleu-Ntem province, Gabon
Place associated: Río Muni region, Equatorial Guinea
Current Location: On View, Gallery 102
Notes:
The bright, inset eyes of this figure suggest the ability to see past the earthly realm. The Fang attached figures such as this, with the feet dangling down, to the lids of cylindrical containers which preserved the skulls and bones of important ancestors. These figures symbolically evoke the ancestor and guard the relics within. These sculptures may reflect Fang ideas about death and rebirth in the use of infantile forms—such as a high, bulging forehead and shortened limbs—combined with more mature characteristics. Spiritually empowered by the bones and relics, these reliquary figures could also be placed in and around the houses of the extended family for protection. Such mobile reliquaries were an innovation developed to meet the needs of a migrant community, as villages periodically relocated due to the vagaries of the difficult forest environment.


Provenance
by 1936 - 1942
Frank Crowninshield (1872–1947), New York, NY, USA [1]

1942 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, purchased at auction,"African Sculptures," McMillen, Inc., New York, October 16 - November 7, 1942, lot no. 13 [2]


Notes:
[1] The main source of this provenance is the exhibition catalogue "Exhibition of Sculptures of Old African Civilizations: From the Collection of Frank Crowninshield." The exhibition took place in the Jacques Seligmann Gallery in New York from January 4 to January 22, 1936. 23:1942 is illustrated on page 7 of the catalogue.

[2] The main source of this provenance is the exhibition catalogue "A Selection of African Sculptures from the Frank Crowninshield Collection." The exhibition took place at McMillen, Inc. in New York from October 16 through November 7, 1941. An invoice dated April 27, 1942 from McMillen, Inc. to the City Art Museum documents the purchase of this object, listed as "Pahouin Gabon, seated figure of a Pahouin King" [SLAM document files]. Minutes of the Administrative Board of Control of the City Art Museum, April 2, 1942.
Exhibition History
Title: African Sculptures from the Frank Crowninshield Collection
Date: October 16 – November 7, 1941
Venue: McMillen Inc.
Title: Exhibition of Sculptures of Old African Civilizations
Date: January 4 – January 22, 1936
Venue: Jacques Seligmann & Co., Inc.
Title: African Highlights (2008)
Date: July 2008 - October 2009
Venue: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: Origins of Modern Sculpture
Date: March 30, 1946 - May 1, 1946
Venue: City Art Museum of Saint Louis
Venue: The Detroit Institute of Arts
Title: Embroidered Textiles from Greece and the Aegean, Sculpture from West and Central Africa, and Sculpture and Paintings of South and Southeast Asia
Date: July 10, 1969 – September 28, 1969
Venue: City Art Museum of Saint Louis
Title: African Highlights (2009)
Date: Begin November 2009
Venue: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: Exhibition of African Art
Date: February 20 – March 20, 1951
Venue: Scripps College Art Galleries
Title: People at the Art Museum
Date: July 7- September 9, 2001
Venue: Saint Louis Art Museum
Publication History
Title: African Sculptures
Periodical Title: Bulletin of the City Art Museum of Saint Louis
Author: James Boggs Musick
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: Art by Negroes
Periodical Title: The Art Digest
Edition: October 15
Year Published: 1941
Title: The Saint Louis Art Museum Handbook of the Collections
Editor: Mary Ann Steiner
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: African Sculpture Show Illustrates One of Oldest Art Traditions
Periodical Title: The Art Digest
Edition: Janurary 1
Year Published: 1936
Title: Handbook of the Collections: The City Art Museum of Saint Louis
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: West African Sculpture: Sacred Space, Spirit and Power
Periodical Title: The Saint Louis Art Museum Bulletin
Author: John W. Nunley
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: Exhibition of Sculptures of Old African Civilizations
Year Published: 1936
Title: John Graham and the Crowninshield Collection of African Art
Periodical Title: Winterthur Portfolio
Author: Christa Clarke
Title: Origins of Modern Sculpture
Author: Wilhelm R. Valentiner
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: The St. Louis Art Museum: Handbook of the Collections
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: Saint Louis Art Museum: Handbook of the Collection
Editor: Mary Ann Steiner
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: African Sculptures from the Frank Crowninshield Collection
Year Published: 1941
Title: Handbook of the Collections: The City Art Museum of Saint Louis
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
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