West Africa, Central Nigeria, Nok, ca. 500 BCE to 200 CE. An expressive bust modeled from a coarse, quartz-tempered clay to depict an expressive visage comprised of partially pierced round eyes, furrowed brows, a naturalistic nose with delineated nostrils, full parted lips, facial hair in the form of a beard or goatee, and a caplike, incised/striated coiffure. The features show a remarkable sophistication for such an early date in Iron Age, Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, the style of Nok facial features shows similarity to more historic and contemporary bronze and wooden sculptures found among the Benin and Yoruba peoples of Nigeria. It has been said these ancient figures represent the beginnings of African art. Size: 5.5" H (14 cm); 6.5" H (16.5 cm) on included custom stand.
Classical Nok terracotta sculpture was first found in 1943 deep within a tin mine, near the present-day town of Nok, situated on the Jos Plateau in central Nigeria. The exact use of these portrait-like figures has yet to be discovered; none of these sculptures has ever been found in situ and any remains of these ancient structures are practically non-existent today. However, it has been suggested the hollow terracotta figures, which this head came from, were ancestral effigies kept in shrine houses.
Provenance: private New York, New York, USA collection; ex Bruce Frank New York, USA collection
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