An icon of African sculpture, the Nkundu reliquary from the Mestach collection, created between 1890 and 1909, according to the eminent specialist of Congolese art François Neyt, will be offered for sale at Christie’s Paris on 11 December.
Acquired shortly after the Second World War by the Brussels-based artist Jean Willy Mestach, it has been in his collection for over 50 years. This great anthropomorphic figure – by virtue of its exceptional size, its sculptural quality and its painterly surface has been a cornerstone of the collection of the primitivist painter, also nicknamed the ‘Eye of the Sablon’.
Measuring a remarkable 254 cm in height, roughly 8 feet tall – holding a curved sword in the left hand, this heroic male nude commemorates the high-ranking nobleman who commissioned it. Stretched to the extreme, his features recall Giacometti’s lines; while the surfaces painted in red and white symbolise the passage from life to death.