Lot: 419

Anthropomorphic male ancestor figure "beli"

D. R. Congo, Mangbetu

Provenance Size Starting price / estimated price
Belgian Colonial Collection (brought before 1940)
Philippe Laeremans, Brussels, Belgium (2013)
Belgian Private Collection
H: 11.2 inch 6000 EUR / 12000 EUR

wood, base The female counterpart to the present object was auctioned on 24 November 2012 as lot 405 at Zemanek-Münster (AHDRC 0033452). Figures of the Mangbetu are rare and can be looked upon as ancestor figures in general. Individuals of advanced age among the Mangbetu still designate these statues by the name "beli". According to them, they were used in hidden locals by the secret society of the name "nebeli". Their style is characterized by a long skull, the beauty ideal of the Mangbetu aristocracy. Thus, in small children, the head was compressed by means of thin bark cords and deformed accordingly. In former times the Mangbetu had a prosperous kingdom. Their art in general is court-oriented, and was reserved for the ruling classes. It reflected wealth, and prestige of its owners and therefore was mainly restricted on the design of basic commodities and ritual objects which is why figures are rather rare to be found.

Burssens, Herman, Mangbetu, Afrikaanse hofkunst uit Belgische privé-verzamlingen, Brussels 1992, p. 60, ill. 14

Laeremans, Parcours des Mondes, Paris 10-15 September 2013