Lot: 199

Pair of figures "lü me"

Côte d'Ivoire, Dan

Provenance Size Hammer price
Harvey R. ("Bud") Frantz (died 1963), Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA
Colleen (Frantz) Compton-Deater, Danielsville, Pennsylvania, USA

Late in 1936 H. R. Frantz was sent to Liberia, West Africa, to manage a 3,000-acre estate and oversee the work of 500 natives for the Firestone Plantation Company. His work included development of new rubber plantations from the jungle as well as the production of liquid latex. When his job was finished, he and a few friends struck out northward through the jungle, travelling by whatever means they happened to come across, mostly by canoe or foot, until they finally reached the legendary town of Timbuktu. When he returned to his country two years later, Frantz brought the Dan couple to Pennsylvania, where it remained in family estate up to now. The above is confirmed by Colleen (Frantz) Compton-Deater, the granddaughter of H. R. Frantz.
H: 26.6 inch (female)/ 28 inch (male) 8000 EUR

wood, plant fibre, rep., base Dan figures usually represent women, although sometimes men are portrayed, and then frequently in male and female pairs. Although they are stylized in the traditional manner, aspects of portraiture may exist in cicatrization patterns, coiffures, and other individual conditions. The figures could have been meant as portrait of a still-living or a dead person. Donner writes of figures carved to portray the wives of chiefs, perhaps wives who had died and thus would be remembered, or sometimes a living wife. Upon the acceptance of a newly carved figure, the chief was expected to provide a big feast for the whole village, and to pay the carver as well. Thus the figures became a secular status symbol, one that only a wealthy man could afford. At one time they may have had a religious meaning. I n the 1930s the ethnologist Donner was told about the "long ago" practice of a ritual, held sporadically at the time of a new moon. There would be great feasting, dancing, and music, and people would travel from nearby villages to participate in the festival. The festivities seemed to center around a ritual of annointing the figures with palm oil and decorating them about the eyes with kaolin. Apparently both practices were ways of showing respect and honouring the figures, but the precise meaning of the festival and the significance of the figures has been lost. In any case, all objects portraying a human face were treated with special caution and care, for every representation of the human face meant contact with spirits and magical powers.

Johnson, Barbara C., Four Dan Sculptors, San Francisco 1987, p. 25, ill. 17