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Date unknown
Artist/maker unknown, Fang
The fierce expression of this carved head conveys the essence of its original function: ritual protector of a reliquary containing the sacred remains of a Fang family’s esteemed ancestor. The history of its ownership illustrates how ritual objects made on the African continent came into the art market in the first two decades of the twentieth century, a process that followed European colonial expansion begun in the previous century. Recorded in Europe as early as 1913, this Fang head was illustrated in one of the first European treatises that presented African sculpture as art. It then was acquired by Marius de Zayas, an artist, writer, art dealer, and early promoter of African art in New York, who sold it to the collectors Louise and Walter Arensberg. The Arensbergs appreciated it as a work that challenged the inherited conventions and expectations of the European tradition with dramatic expression and a high degree of abstraction. ...

Object Details
Frank Burty Haviland (1886-1971), Paris, dates undetermined; with Joseph Brummer (1883-1947), Paris, before 1913; with Charles Vignier (1863-1934), Paris, 1913-19; Marius de Zayas (1880-1961), New York, 1919; Louise Arensberg (1878-1954) and Walter C. Arensberg (1878-1954), Los Angeles, 1919 [1]; gift to PMA, 1950.1. The preceding information is according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition page for the exhibition “African Art, New York, and the Avant-Garde,” November 27, 2012 - September 2, 2013.

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