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Cabinet W: Shelf 2

Selections from the Helmut Stern Collection

The objects displayed in this case form part of the collection of Helmut Stern, a dedicated and discerning collector of African art whose focus is on objects from what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. This vast country is home to numerous ethnic groups, both large and small. In pre-colonial times, some of these groups were organized into centralized states, such as the Kongo and Kuba kingdoms, and many of the objects here are insignia of royal or ritual power, or both. The vessels, for example, would have been used by chiefs and traditional religious practitioners alike to hold palm wine, while the finely carved adze decorated with brass tacks represents one of the most important emblems of power among Hemba peoples. The disquieting “power objects,” which are known by a variety of local names among the Kongo and related peoples, were used as receptacles for spirit forces, which they attracted and enlivened through powerful substances incorporated into the object itself; they were handled and used by ritual specialists to heal and protect a person or to seek justice for crimes. The Stern collection has been described by the Congolese art historian Niangi Batulukisi as a very rich one, with works of high quality that “bear witness to the grandeur of the civilizations that produced them.”

This carved, dark wooden drinking vessel features a standing female figure, whose disproportionately large head is nearly one-half of the entire piece’s height. The object displays the influence of foreign styles: the body reflects a Leele aesthetic while the scarifications are reminiscent of the Kuba. The facial features, however, are distinctly Wongo.<br />
The woman stands attentively with her palms resting on her upper thighs. Her coiffure consists of an intricate diamond-shape pattern carved in relief; diamond-shape motifs appear again as scarifications across the temples and throughout the torso, from the upper chest to the pelvis. Her facial traits include prominent cheekbones; a slightly arched eyebrow ridge that meets in the middle; and, a long, fine nose. The interior of the cup is smooth and polished. A piece of string has been loosely tied around the figure’s left leg.
Wongo
Palm Wine Cup
1915 – 1925
wood, natural fibers
Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern
2005/1.211
Yoruba
Animal Figure
bronze
Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern
2005/1.241
Bété; Dan
Mask
wood
11 13/16 in x 6 3/4 in x 5 1/2 in (30 cm x 17.2 cm x 14 cm)
Gift of Prof. and Mrs. Horace M. Miner
This standing female <em>nkisi mihasi</em>, or “benevolent” power figure, has been carved in light wood and exhibits many of the typical traits associated with the Luba Shankadi style, and more specifically, with the Mwanza center of production. These features include its disproportionately large, ovoid face, half open coffeebean-like eyes, wide mouth with full lips, triangular nose, high, convex forehead, cascading coiffure, protruding umbilicus, and, diamond-shaped tattoos carved in relief on the belly and in horizontal lines on the lower back and upper thighs. The figure stands with slightly flexed knees and with its arms bent at the elbows such that its palms rest upon the breasts, a pose commonly seen throughout Luba figural depictions of women.
Luba
Power Figure
1875 – 1885
wood
Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern
2005/1.215
Akan
Ewe Standing Female Figure
wood
Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern
2005/1.258
African
Divination Tray
wood
Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern
2005/1.259
This zoomorphic Luba <em>nkisi mihake</em>, or “malevolent” power object, depicts a dog of a fierce and formidable character. Sculpted out of wood, the dog has been carefully covered in animal fur, creating a graphic mimetic effect. The dog’s tail stands nearly upright, signaling a commanding and attentive posture. Most striking, however, are the antelope horns, stuffed with medicinal substances, as well as the metal blades that have been affixed throughout the dog’s trunk and underbelly.
Luba
Power Figure
1925 – 1935
wood, wicker, metal, antelope horns, fur, cord, seeds, nuts
Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern
2005/1.214
This vessel is formed from a hollowed calabash or gourd, the top of which has been carved to form a lid, decoratively patterned with brass tacks and studded by a handle at the center. Snake skin covers the rounded base of the calabash conferring a coarse texture. Several holes have been drilled around the top perimeter of the base from which metal rings holding iron clappers or bells dangle. An array of man-made, animal, and vegetal objects are held inside the vessel, namely, small, wooden anthropomorphic figurines carved with a minimum of physiognomic detail, bird claws, feathers, wings, split cane, and dried seeds.&nbsp;
Southwestern Songye (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
Calabash (kileu)
1905 – 1915
bird claws, feathers and wings, metal, gourd, snakeskin, split cane, dried seeds, wood
Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern
2005/1.231
Bamana
Door Lock
wood, iron
Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern
2005/1.244
This &nbsp;figure stands in a dynamic pose with knees slightly flexed. This androgynous figure sports a European-style hat, a crescent-shaped beard, and a realistically carved penis. The figure has gracefully curved shoulders and powerful legs. The&nbsp;feet and the arms, originally bent at ninety degrees, have been damaged. Most Bwende figures bear forms of scarification; this figure is no exception. Ornate scarifications are carved in relief upon its abdomen and torso while lined scarifications appear across the chest and forehead and beneath the eyes, which are inlaid with white shell. Most strikingly, however, are the two large metal rods that forcefully pierce the figure&#39;s abdomen.
Bwende
Power Figure
1885 – 1895
wood, shells, metal
Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern
2005/1.178
This carved, wooden Yaka figure depicts a man standing with an animal perched atop his head. The carving is stylized and exhibits characteristics typically seen among northern Yaka figural representations: flexed knees; arms bent with upturned palms positioned at shoulder level; and, an animal figure upon its head. In this case, the creature has a curved body and appears to be an anteater. The male figure has a narrow, cylindrical body; a slightly protruding belly; a simple coiffure; an elongated face; barely-open eyes from which vertical lines extend downward; a disproportionately large, pointed nose, and a darkened beard.
Yaka
Figure
1915 – 1925
wood
Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern
2005/1.193
This finely detailed, wooden Wongo cup bears three anthropomorphic faces carved in relief: a large, central face and two smaller, diamond-shaped faces to either side. The remaining areas of the body of the cup are completely covered in an elaborate diamond-shape pattern, a characteristic commonly seen in Wongo and Kuba objects. The cup’s faces exhibit the stylistic influence of the neighboring Kuba, as evidenced by the scarifications on the central face that extend from its temples to its ears; the large, triangular nose; and the half closed coffeebean-shaped eyes. The other two faces closely resemble the center face but lack ears and scarifications. The cup has a curved handle while the interior is smooth and polished.
Wongo
Cup
1905 – 1915
wood
Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern
2005/1.210

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Part of 1 Learning Collection

Cabinet A: Shelf 1
<p>Selections from the Bohlen Wood Art Collection ...

Cabinet A: Shelf 2
<p>Selections from the Bohlen Wood Art Collection ...

Cabinet A: Shelf 3
<p>Selections from the Bohlen Wood Art Collection ...

Cabinet B: Shelf 1
<p>Selections from the Bohlen Wood Art Collection ...

Cabinet B: Shelf 2
<p>Selections from the Bohlen Wood Art Collection ...

Cabinet B: Shelf 3
<p>Selections from the Bohlen Wood Art Collection ...

Cabinet C: Shelf 1
<p>Selections from the Bohlen Wood Art Collection ...

Cabinet C: Shelf 2
<p>Selections from the Bohlen Wood Art Collection ...

Cabinet C: Shelf 3
<p>Inkwells </p>

Cabinet D: Shelf 1
<p>Selections from the Bohlen Wood Art Collection ...

Cabinet D: Shelf 2
<p>Inkwells </p>

Cabinet D: Shelf 3
<p>Inkwells </p>

Cabinet E: Shelf 1
<p>Selections from the James Marshall Plumer Collec...

Cabinet E: Shelf 2
<p>Selections from the James Marshall Plumer Collec...

Cabinet E: Shelf 3
<p>Selections from the James Marshall Plumer Collec...

Cabinet F: Shelf 1
<p>Mortuary Art from China </p>

Cabinet F: Shelf 2
<p>Mortuary Art from China</p>

Cabinet F: Shelf 3
<p>Mortuary Art from China</p>

Cabinet G: Shelf 1
<p>Mortuary Art from China</p>

Cabinet G: Shelf 2
<p>Mortuary Art from China</p>

Cabinet G: Shelf 3 
<p>Mortuary Art from China</p>

Cabinet H: Shelf 1
<p>Mortuary Art from China</p>

Cabinet H: Shelf 2
<p>Mortuary Art from China </p>

Cabinet H: Shelf 3
<p>Mortuary Art from China</p>

Cabinet I: Shelf 1
<p>Art of Islam</p>

Cabinet I: Shelf 2
<p>Art of Islam</p>

Cabinet I: Shelf 3
<p>Art of Islam</p>

Cabinet J: Shelf 1
<p>Art of Islam</p>

Cabinet J: Shelf 2
<p>Art of Islam</p>

Cabinet J: Shelf 3
<p>Art of Islam</p>

Cabinet K: Shelf 1
<p>Religious Sculpture from India</p>

Cabinet K: Shelf 2
<p>Religious Sculpture from India</p>

Cabinet K: Shelf 3
<p>Art of Islam</p>

Cabinet L: Shelf 1
<p>Blue-and-White Porcelain and Stoneware</p>

Cabinet L: Shelf 2
<p>Blue-and-White Porcelain and Stoneware</p>

Cabinet L: Shelf 3
<p>Blue-and-White Porcelain and Stoneware</p>

Cabinet M: Shelf 1
<p>Selections from the Dora and William Hunter Coll...

Cabinet M: Shelf 2
<p>Selections from the Dora and William Hunter Coll...

Cabinet M: Shelf 3
<p>Blue-and-White Porcelain and Stoneware</p>

Cabinet N: Shelf 1
<p>Selections from the Margaret Watson Parker Colle...

Cabinet N: Shelf 2
<p>Selections from the Margaret Watson Parker Colle...

Cabinet N: Shelf 3
<p>Celadon Wares in Asia</p>

Cabinet O: Shelf 1
<p>Celadon Wares in Asia</p>

Cabinet O: Shelf 2
<p>Celadon Wares in Asia</p>

Cabinet O: Shelf 3
<p>Celadon Wares in Asia</p>

Cabinet P: Shelf 1
<p>Celadon Wares in Asia</p>

Cabinet P: Shelf 2
<p>Celadon Wares in Asia</p>

Cabinet P: Shelf 3
<p>Celadon Wares in Asia</p>

Cabinet Q: Shelf 1
<p>Selections from the Ellen and Richard Laing Coll...

Cabinet Q: Shelf 2
<p>Selections from the Ellen and Richard Laing Coll...

Cabinet Q: Shelf 3
<p>Selections from the Ellen and Richard Laing Coll...

Cabinet Q: Shelf 4
<p>American Plaster Casts</p>

Cabinet R: Shelf 1
<p>American Plaster Casts</p>

Cabinet R: Shelf 2
<p>Apostle Spoons and American Silver</p>

Cabinet R: Shelf 3
<p>Modernist Glass and American Art Pottery</p>

Cabinet R: Shelf 4
<p>American Plaster Casts</p>

Cabinet S: Shelf 1
<p>American Silver</p>

Cabinet S: Shelf 2
<p>Tiffany Glass</p>

Cabinet S: Shelf 3
<p>American Silver</p>

Cabinet T: Shelf 1
<p>American Art Pottery</p>

Cabinet T: Shelf 2
<p>American Art Pottery</p>

Cabinet T: Shelf 3
<p>Native American Art</p>

Cabinet U: Shelf 1
<p>American Art Pottery</p>

Cabinet U: Shelf 2
<p>American Art Pottery</p>

Cabinet U: Shelf 3
<p>Native American Art</p>

Cabinet V: Shelf 1
<p>The Human Figure in African Art</p>

Cabinet V: Shelf 2
<p>African Miniature Masks</p>

Cabinet V: Shelf 3
<p>African Masks and Masquerades</p>

Cabinet W: Shelf 1
<p>The Head in African Art</p>

Cabinet W: Shelf 2
<p>Selections from the Helmut Stern Collection</p>

Cabinet W: Shelf 3
<p>Selections from the Helmut Stern Collection</p>

Cabinet W: Shelf 4
<p>African Masks and Masquerades</p>

Cabinet X: Shelf 1
<p>Modern Sculpture</p>

Cabinet X: Shelf 2
<p>Modern Sculpture</p>

Cabinet X: Shelf 3
<p>Modern Sculpture</p>

Cabinet X: Shelf 4
<p>Modern Sculpture</p>

Cabinet Y: Shelf 1
<p>Selections from the Fusfeld Art Collection</p>

Cabinet Y: Shelf 2
<p>Contemporary Art</p>

Cabinet Y: Shelf 3
<p>Contemporary Art</p>

Cabinet Y: Shelf 4
<p>Contemporary Art</p>

13 Collection Object Sources

Palm Wine Cup (2005/1.211)
Animal Figure (2005/1.241)
Mask (1983/2.186)
Power Figure (2005/1.215)
Divination Tray (2005/1.259)
Power Figure (2005/1.214)
Calabash (kileu) (2005/1.231)
Door Lock (2005/1.244)
Power Figure (2005/1.178)
Figure (2005/1.193)
Cup (2005/1.210)
Mortar (2005/1.205)

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Last Updated

June 8, 2020 2:44 p.m.

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