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Figure of Mother and Child (Phemba)

Arts of Africa

On View: African Storage Annex, East Gallery, 1st Floor
Such sculptures of a mother nursing her child may have been used to increase or aid fertility. The mirror-covered cavities in the infant’s abdomen and the mother’s back were intended to hold protective medicines.
MEDIUM Wood, beads, glass mirror, metal, resin
DATES 19th century
DIMENSIONS 11 x 5 x 4 1/2 in. (27.9 x 12.7 x 11.4 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in African Storage Annex, East Gallery, 1st Floor
ACCESSION NUMBER 22.1138
CREDIT LINE Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund
RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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CAPTION Kongo (Yombe subgroup). Figure of Mother and Child (Phemba), 19th century. Wood, beads, glass mirror, metal, resin, 11 x 5 x 4 1/2 in. (27.9 x 12.7 x 11.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1922, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund, 22.1138. Creative Commons-BY
IMAGE 3/4, 22.1138_threequarter_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2006
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Carved wooden mother and child. Mother, who is nursing child, is seated cross-legged, supporting child's head with right hand and legs with left hand. She has high, spade-like headdress, open protruding mouth revealing filed teeth, and glass eyes with black pupils. Ears are carved spatially and have pink bead earrings strung on wire through ear lobes. Over much of shoulders and back are scarification marks. Above breasts are a band and a necklace. Infant child, with mirror in center of abdomen, has hand on mother's stomach. Second mirror is attached with four nails to lower part of mother's back. There is a deep crack running down the figure of the mother from below her chin through the torso. Other cracks throughout figure and base. Often old crack repairs open up again and need to be refilled.
RECORD COMPLETENESS Best (91%)
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