Luba bowl figures are among the “classic” images of African art. Generally they feature a beautiful woman, with carefully detailed hairstyle and scarification. They can be found in a variety of regional styles, but seem to share the same function of containing the white pigment worn by diviners during spirit possession. This example is unusual, for while it has the careful hairstyle, it is not obviously female. Most importantly, its proportions and complex balancing act of two bowls and an antelope are exceedingly rare. Scholar Mary Nooter Roberts makes particular mention of a comparable object in the Felix collection in Belgium as being by “one of the most daring of Luba artists.” She suggests that the unusual composition may refer to the culture hero Mibidi Kaluwe, the hunter-blacksmith. It is tempting to make this comparison since as a diviner seeks the solutions to client’s problems, the hunter also seeks his quarry. In one part of Luba land, Mibidi Kaluwe was part of the protective magic worked by a hunting guild called Buluwe.
Balanced atop an antelope, a figure with outstretched arms and legs grasps the larger of two side by side bowls. Brass tacks adorn the top of the head and coiled bracelets the arms.
Edmond Morlet, Brussels, -- to l970s
M. Morlet, Belgium, late 1970s to 1981
Loudmer Auction, Paris, June 24, 1981
Joseph and Barbara Goldenberg, Los Angeles, 1981 to 2001
Barbara Goldenberg, Los Angeles, 2001 to 2010
The Goldenberg Family Trust, 2010 to 2011
Amy Goldenberg Sweeney, 2011
African Cosmos: Stellar Arts, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., June 20-December 9, 2012; Newark Museum, February 26-August 11, 2013; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, August 23-November 30, 2014; Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University, Atlanta, January 31-June 21, 2015
Treasures, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., November 17, 2004-August 15, 2005
Perspectives: Angles on African Art, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, February 21-April 26, 1987; Center for African Art, New York, September 10, 1987-January 3, 1988; Birmingham Museum of Art, January 31-March 27, 1988; San Diego Museum of Art, May 23-August 16, 1988
Baldwin, James (ed). 1987. Perspectives: Angles on African Art. New York: Center for African Art, p. 37.
Loudmer-Poulain. 1981. Arts Primitifs. Auction catalogue. Paris, no. T.
Patton, Sharon F. 2004. Treasures: Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution. Folio.