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19th C. African Kongo Steatite Ntadi Mother Figure

Central Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kongo peoples, ca. late 19th century CE. A large seated funerary figure known as a "Ntadi," hand-carved from dark-grey steatite with dark patina, depicting a woman seated upon an integral bench while nursing her infant. Nude save for ankle rings, arm rings, a chest strap, and a necklace, her upright posture leans slightly towards her left side with rounded shoulders that taper dramatically to a thick neck. Ovoid eyes with incised lids, a bulbous nose, thin lips, cupped ears, rounded cheeks, and a smooth forehead define her serene countenance, and her head is topped with a simple cap adorned with five projecting nubs. Mothers were honored within the matrilineal Kongo society, so the suckling infant in her arms may indicate that this woman died during childbirth. Size: 7.75" W x 16.7" H (19.7 cm x 42.4 cm).

Condition: Losses to portions of feet, base, and one leg. Minor nicks and abrasions to base, legs, body, arms, and head, with softening to some finer details, and light encrustations. Light earthen deposits and great dark patina throughout.

Provenance: ex-private old New England, USA collection, acquired in the 1970s

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