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Man riding a buffalo

Maker
Pende artist
Date
Early 20th century
Type
Sculpture
Medium
Wood, pigment, brass tacks
Dimensions
H x W x D: 56.5 x 23 x 32.5 cm (22 1/4 x 9 1/16 x 12 13/16 in.)
Credit Line
Bequest of Barbara and Joseph Goldenberg
Object number
2011-4-1
Label Text
This sculpture combines the face of a classic Pende mask with the striking and unique iconography of a man riding a buffalo. While the wild buffalo is widespread as an emblem of a ruler’s power in many parts of Africa, art historian Herbert Cole has pointed out a specific inspiration for the Pende theme. In the 18th and 19th century, merchants of mixed descent, called Pombieros in Portuguese, rode oxen or bullocks on long distance trading missions into Angola and the Congo region. A circa 1870 photograph published by Cole is particularly significant for the choice of saddle cloth--an actual leopard skin. The leopard is another royal emblem and the skin is often used as a seat, rug or costume in court ceremonies. This is particularly appropriate if we consider that the horned headdress of the rider is comparable to the fiber attachments of the carved wood mask named fumu, the mask of the chief.
Description
Wood male figure with a four peak headdress riding a horned animal, probably a buffalo, on a domed base with straight sides. Red pigment adorns the rider's face with the rest of the sculpture in a dark color with blue pigment showing in patches. Two brass tacks are set vertically on the center of the forehead to the bridge of the nose.
Provenance
Anthony Slayter Ralph, California
Dr. Robert and Helen Kuhn, Los Angeles, -- to 1991
Joseph and Barbara Goldenberg, Los Angeles, 1991 to 2001
Barbara Goldenberg, Los Angeles, 2001 to 2010
Exhibition History
Visionary: Viewpoints on Africa's Arts, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., November 4, 2017-ongoing
Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue - From the Collections of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and Camille O. and William H. Cosby, Jr., National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, November 7, 2014-January 24, 2016
Treasures, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., November 17, 2004-August 15, 2005
Icons: Ideals and Power in the Art of Africa, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., October 25, 1989-September 3, 1990
Rider of Power in African Sculpture, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, November 23, 1983-May 6, 1984
Published References
Cole, Herbert M. 1983. "Riders of Power in African Sculpture: Exhibition Nov. 23, 1983-May 6, 1984." Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, no. 6.
Cole, Herbert M. 1989. Icons: Ideals and Power in the Art of Africa. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, pp. 130-131, no. 154.
Kreamer, Christine Mullen and Adrienne L. Childs (eds). 2014. Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue from the Collections of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and Camille O. and William H. Cosby, Jr. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, pp. 129, 138, no. 75, pl. 55.
Patton, Sharon F. 2004. Treasures: Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Robbins, Warren M. and Nancy I. Nooter. 1989. African Art in American Collections. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, p. 398, no. 1015.
Sotheby's. 1991. The Kuhn Collection of African Art. Auction catalogue (November 20). New York, no. 90.
Strother, Z. S. 2008. Visions of Africa: Pende. Milan: 5 Continents Editions, pp. 84, 107, no. 27.
Data Source
National Museum of African Art
See more items in
National Museum of African Art Collection
Exhibition
Visionary: Viewpoints on Africa's Arts
On View
NMAfA, Second Level Gallery (2193)
Geography
Democratic Republic of the Congo