Crucifix – Probably Congo

Christianity was first introduced to central Africa by the Portuguese in the fifteenth century, and its beliefs and symbols were gradually adopted by some kingdoms in the region over the next several hundred years. The products of this cultural fusion were often expressed in syncretic works that clearly combine the artistic traditions of both geographic spheres.

This figure of the crucified Christ is carved fully in the round, nails piercing the hands and feet and a wooden halo attached with a metal spike. The body is portrayed in an emaciated state, torso ridged with exposed ribs, limbs frail and limp, wasted arms outstretched. The disproportionately large head is lightly upturned, the face fixing its gaze upward with a wondering, transcendent expression. Carved with an open mouth, the figure seems caught in mid-speech, addressing the world beyond, or simply enraptured with awe.

 

Late 19th century
Wood, metal, pokerwork
13 ½” h
Provenance: Merton Simpson, New York
#564
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