Male Reliquary Guardian Figure
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.