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HOME : African & Tribal Art : AS collection : Mangbetu Terracotta Vessel
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Mangbetu Terracotta Vessel - AM.0041
Origin: Zaire
Circa: 1890 AD to 1950 AD
Dimensions: 16.75" (42.5cm) high
Collection: African Art
Medium: Terracotta

Additional Information: as

Location: Great Britain
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The principal consumers of art in Mangbetu society were the kings and chieftains. It was local practice for royalty to be buried with their precious objects so each new ruler had to commission new items of display. This partly reflects the insecurities of power in north- eastern Zaire; the Mangbetu lived alongside several other peoples and centralised control in the area was not strong. This explains the need to bolster authority with ostentatious display.

This striking anthropomorphic vessel draws on a long-established tradition of producing utilitarian terracotta wares. There are echoes of such items in the rounded form that the head rests upon. This has been embellished with a band of moulded decoration of short straight lines that radiate out from the base of the neck. Mangbetu pots, sometimes referred to as palm wine vessels, often display a striking variety of surface patterns. This vessel is no exception; the moulded decoration contrasts, for example, with the delicately incised pattern defining the neck area. The elongated skull reflects a local practice whereby infants’ heads were bound with raffia. The face itself is striking with narrow eyes, a long straight nose and slightly parted lips. The cheeks have four incised, petal shaped marks symmetrically arranged either side of the nose. Symmetry seems to have been valued by the Mangbetu culture in its art and this fondness was remarked upon by European visitors to the region. The vessel in is excellent condition with only minor damage to the foot of the base upon which the rounded form rests. Although equipped with a wide looped handle the function of this item seems to have been ceremonial rather than practical. - (AM.0041)


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