Guardian Figure 
Kota, Gabon
Middle of 19th cent.
Wood, copper, brass, iron

39 cm


The Pennsylvania University Museum, Philadelphia
Sturgis Ingersoll Collection, Philadelphia
William A. Mc Carty-Cooper Collection, Los Angeles
Christie’s, New York, 19 May 1992, Lot. 138
Arman Collection, New York
Samir Borro Collection, Bruxelles
A. Weißeneger Collection, Amsterdam
Private Collection, Paris

Dalton Somaré Gallery, Milan
Anna Demina Collection, Milan


Christie’s, New York, 19 May 1992, cover

Arman et l’Art Africain, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1996, p. 10


Parcours des Mondes, September 2019, Paris


The perfects proportions of this antique concave Guardian Figure reflect the canon of the style at its best.
The face is inscribed in an oval which is wider at the top/forehead and narrower and pointed in the lower part/chin.
The look of the observer immediately perceives the harmony of the proportions of this figure and the authority that these Guardians, while guarding the entrance of the secret world of the ancestors, emanate.
The face is carefully covered by stripes of brass and copper.
The large brass stripes cross each other at the centre of the oval driving the attention of the viewer to the conceptual centre of the figure, which is to say the wide-open eyes through which a supernatural glimpse spreads out.
A triangular sharp nose and an open mouth reinforce the liveness of this sculpture.
The face is contoured by well balanced lateral projections and by the crescent at the top (marked by the motives typical of this style).
Quite unique and still not explained is the meaning of the geometrical carving of the back of the figure.
According to Perrois’ classification (see his book titled Ancestral Art of Gabon) this Guardian Figure belongs to the Category IV type 1, Franceville area.
It is for sure the artistic sensibility of Arman which made him perceive the exceptional authority of this sculpture and it is for this quality that it found a place in Arman’s legendary accumulation of Kota Reliquary Guardian figures which decorated the dining room of his apartment in New York.