Songye Ceramic

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Songye Ceramic Container, Congo

H: 25 cm (9,8″)

Writing in 1905 and 1906, the German ethnographer Leo Frobenius praised Songye pottery, attributing to it a “plainly astonishing beauty and a copious but measurable abundance of forms.” Indeed Frobenius recorded over two hundred different types of Songye pots, many of which were variations on the tall-necked storage container. This container is embellished in a characteristically robust style, with deeply incised lines that emphasize the neck and shoulders. The chain of arches appear tightly controlled, as do the grooves around the neck, and the arches at mid-neck have been squared off. According to Frobenius, much of this kind of embellishment is added to a pot when it is still wet, while finer details are incised after it is leather hard. The surface is overlaid with a dense, crusty coating interrupted by areas of high sheen that suggest age and use. A dry yellow substance coats the interior base and lower walls of this container, perhaps to help make it watertight.

Age: 19th century

Provenance: Old Belgian private collection – acquired from Brussels gallery in 2005.

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