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HOME : Islamic Art : AS Collection Consignment : Mangbetu Terracotta Vessel
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Mangbetu Terracotta Vessel - AM.0040
Origin: Zaire
Circa: 1890 AD to 1950 AD
Dimensions: 20.1" (51.1cm) high
Collection: African Art
Medium: Terracotta

Additional Information: AS

Location: Great Britain
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Anthropomorphic vessels such as this one were created in north-eastern Zaire for a relatively short period of time; production flourished between the 1890s and the 1920s. These prestige items were not produced on a large commercial scale, rather they were purchased by the leaders of Mangbetu society and wealthy Europeans visiting the area. Often referred to as palm wine vessels, they draw on a long local tradition of producing terracotta utilitarian wares. Indeed the rounded base with a swirling pattern of incised lines is similar to non- anthropomorphic vessels made during the same period.

The head is an idealised portrait of Mangbetu feminine beauty. The elongated skull reflects the contemporary practice of binding infants' heads with raffia. The fan-shaped coiffure also recalls a local fashion amongst the wealthiest women of Mangbetu society. The eyes are narrow and great care has been taken over the details of the mouth; the lips are parted to reveal two rows of regular teeth. The horizontal lines on the face are yet another mark of status. Although the vessel has a wide looped handle, it does not seem to be designed for pouring. The opening in the female’s headdress is directed back above the handle rather than out in front. This appears to confirm the hypothesis that these vessels fulfilled a ceremonial function amongst the elite of Mangbetu society. - (AM.0040)


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