Fang peoples / Reliquary Head (Nlo Bieri) / 19th-20th centuryFang peoples
Reliquary Head (Nlo Bieri)
19th-20th century

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Creator Nationality: African; Central African; Gabonese; Fang
Creator Name-CRT: Fang peoples
Title: Reliquary Head (Nlo Bieri)
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1800
Creation End Date: 1999
Creation Date: 19th-20th century
Object Type: Sculpture
Materials and Techniques: Wood, metal, oil
Dimensions: H. 18 5/16 in. (46.5 cm)
AMICA Contributor: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.206.229
Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979

In Fang society, figurative sculptures produced for the ancestor cult, or 'bieri,' were designed to complement reliquary containers. Such works were generalized ancestral representations which were memorialized and addressed in times of need through relics preserved in the attached container. The reflective shine on the surface is the result of repeated applications of palm oil, a practice also employed on bieri initiates' bodies.

The formal features of this Fang reliquary sculpture powerfully influenced Modernist artists who began collecting non-Western art during the early twentieth century. This particular work, admired for its balanced symmetry and juxtaposition of straight lines and sinuous curves, became part of the collection of the sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein in the 1920s.

AMICA ID: MMA_.1979.206.229
AMICA Library Year: 2000
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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