back bounded-next cafe calendar-large calendar cart close coat-check collapse donate download elevators expand explore filter grid-view hamburger heart hours join link list-view location mail more next nursing-room phone print programs ramp restrooms right-arrow search share shop thumbs-down thumbs-up tickets up toilet heart-filled zoom Skip to Content

Male Reliquary Guardian Figure

African Art

Search and Share Tools

Male Reliquary Guardian Figure

Artwork Details


Fang Artist, Cameroon


Late nineteenth–early twentieth century


Wood, ancestral relics, brass, and glass

Accession #



18 1/2 x 5 1/4 x 5 1/2 inches


On View - Stent Family Wing, Skyway, Gallery 402


These two Fang sculptures from the dense equatorial forest region of central Africa once sat on cylindrical bark boxes. The boxes stored a family’s ancestral relics and the sculptures served as sentinels, protecting the contents. Such sculptures were often carved in pairs, but it is unusual to find two figures still united. Fang artists carved figurative sculptures with elongated torsos, compressed legs, and disproportionately large heads to resemble both the foreheads of newborns and ancestral skulls. The boldly geometric forms of Fang reliquary guardian figures inspired early-twentieth-century artists such as Henri Matisse, André Derain, and Constantin Brancusi.


Fred and Rita Richman Collection