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    Description

    Nok (Nigeria)
    Male Half Figure with Crossed Arms
    Ceramic
    Height: 9 inches

    Nok sculpture (conservatively ca. 500 B. C. - A. D. 400) represents the earliest fully realized artistic style thus far known from sub-Saharan Africa. This is especially remarkable when one considers that the now rather large body of Nok figural images shows us a fully mature style. This style is confident in its carefully developed, consistent stylizations; there are several groups in which numerous similar examples embody a complicated, indeed convoluted, iconography; and the execution of the majority of pieces evidences a certainty and inevitability which can only come from the hands of master artists who work in a well-established expressive vocabulary.
    This helmet-coiffured example comes from a once complete seated figure on which the arms rested on knees drawn up close to the body. (See Claire Boullier and Alain Person, "Male Statuary of Nok. An Iconography of Seated Male Figures," Tribal Arts, vol. 4, Summer/Autumn 1999, pp. 98-112, where this piece is illustrated both on the cover (reversed) and as fig. 22, p. 109.) He wears a multi-strand, probably beaded collar of a flanged rather than rolled form. Both collar types are a standard part of the elaborate accoutrements which present the high status of the individuals which the Nok ceramic sculptures represent. This is equally true of the wide bands of ring-form bracelets seen here. The small beard, also rather frequent, and the helmet-like coiffure perhaps defined a more specific status role for the subject.
    There is the usual variable surface due to some loss of original slip. A part of the proper left tab of hair is missing and there is a drying separation crack in the proper left cheek.
    Documentation. This piece is sold with a full original certificate from Alliance-Science-Art (Ref. 14.19.11 - TL 51205) detailing a thermoluminescence test conducted by Ralf Kotalla on samples taken on by Francine Maurer (from the left shoulder under the collar and from the top of the head behind the coiffure). The results of the test show that the date is 2200 years BP (+/- 200), with a +/- 10% margin of uncertainty. There is also a photocopy of a letter to James Willis (vendor to the present owner) from Ratton Hourdé, Paris, attesting that they sold the sculpture to Willis in 1996 and that it is the piece illustrated on the cover of Tribal Arts(see above).Published: Claire Boullier and Alain Person, "Male Statuary of Nok. An Iconography of Seated Male Figures," Tribal Arts, vol. 4, Summer/Autumn 1999, ill. cover and p. 109, fig. 22.

    Provenance: Gary Hendershott, Little Rock
    James Willis Tribal Art, San Francisco
    Ratton Hourdé Arts Primitifs, Paris



    Condition Report*: Condition report available upon request.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2007
    7th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,995

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