Used by a member of the Luba elite, objects like these elevated the head of its resting owner. Its function may appear non important but it served
an important purpose by protecting the sleeper's elaborate coiffure, itself a work of art requiring some fifty hours to create.
From the book: Hair in African Art and Culture
Two women with cascade coiffures, Luba
Photo: Franck, first half of the 20th century

(right) Luba man with cascade coiffuer
This headrest is no longer in my collection.
Other examples of old Luba headrests for reference purposes
Above is an example of a Luba headrest in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY

Neckrest: Female Figure, probably 19th century
Democratic Republic of Congo; Luba or Shankadi
Wood, beads; H. 6 3/8 in. (16.2 cm)
Gift of Margaret Barton Plass, in Honor of William Fagg, C.M.G., 1981 (1981.399)

The Luba peoples occupy a land of rivers and savanna in the southeast of what is today
Democratic Republic of Congo. As early as the seventeenth century, the Luba headed an
extensive, centrally organized state structured on the principles of divine kingship and rule
by council. The widespread trade networks in the region produced individuals of great
wealth and prestige who commissioned fine works of art for personal and political use.

Used by a member of the Luba elite, this diminutive sculpture elevated the head of its
resting owner. Its function may appear prosaic but it served an important purpose by
protecting the sleeper's elaborate coiffure, itself a work of art requiring some fifty hours to
create. Here, the artist has composed a playful visual pun by emphasizing and enlarging
the swooping curves of the sculpted figure's own hairstyle, mirroring the equally elaborate
hair designs it helped to preserve.

This neckrest is one of a group of less than twenty works attributed to a single master
sculptor. Because of the exuberant treatment of the fan-shaped hair arrangement, a typical
hairstyle of this region in the nineteenth century, this artist is known as the Master of the
Cascade Coiffure. Here, he interprets the human form as a series of acute angles and
slender lines, creating volume by framing space with delicate limbs and fins of hair rather
than filling it with heavy forms. Opposing forces create rhythms that lend harmony and
balance to the figure's asymmetrical pose: the upward thrust of the left knee is answered
by the downward push of the right elbow, while the bent right leg and left arm extend
outward in opposite directions. Triangular openings created by the arms and legs echo the
wedge forms of the complex coiffure design. Finally, the slight twist of the torso adds yet
another layer of visual dynamism to this functional sculpture.
Sotheby's - Paris
African and Oceanic Art : Studer-Koch collection and various owners
Auction Date : Jun 6, 2005



composé de deux personnages assis face à face, les bras enlacés. Chacun adopte une pose identique : jambe droite repliée vers
l'arrière, le pied sculpté à l'horizontale, jambe gauche déployée, le pied posé sur le genou du personnage opposé. Les deux portent
une coiffure à doubles chignons agencés en cascade. Très belle vigueur de la sculpture, caractérisée par les lignes étirées du visage
et des membres, l'amplitude du chignon en éventail, le dynamisme de la pose et les formes ouvertes, anguleuses. Très belle patine,
brun nuancé, brillante.

Collection Jenö et Rosa Studer-Koch, Zurich; collecté entre 1935 et 1940 dans le village de Sungo Mwana, au nord de la rivière Lovoi

Rietberg Museum, Zurich (dépôt, 1972-1984)

Leuzinger, 1972 : 324
Laude, 1966 : 132
Kiewe, 1969 : XII et couverture
Bassani, 1976 : 83, n°18

Exposé et reproduit dans :
Leuzinger, Die Kunst von Schwartz Afrika, catalogue de l'exposition, Kunsthaus, Zürich, du 31 octobre 1970 au 10 février 1971

A superb Luba Shankadi headrest, attributed to the Master of the Cascade Coiffure, Kinkondja workshop, Democratic Republic of the

In the history of African art, the notion of the individual artist was not known to outsiders until 1946, with the identification of 'The
Master of the Buli' by Frans Olbrechts. It is still rare today, despite all the collection information, to be able to attribute a work of art
from Africa to the hand of an individual artist.

In 1964, William Fagg and Margaret Plass (Fagg and Plass, 1964:88) identified a neckrest from the collection of Charles Ratton, as
the hand of a carver from the Luba Shankadi, which they called 'The Master of the Cascade Coiffure'. Since that time, a certain
number of works, in particular neckrests, including the one from the Studer collection, but also a stool and a divination instrument,
kashekeshke, have been attributed to the hand of the same artist. All were collected in the first years of the 20th century, in or near to
the small kingdom of Kinkondja. The formal characteristics outlined by Bassani (1976:84-85) are the following: elongated limbs, one or
two legs bent towards the back, the foot turned to the inside horizontally, a straight cylindrical torso, fine carving, a dynamic pose and
above all a coiffure composed of multiple chignon called ' a cascade coiffure' or minkanda. The same coiffure can be found on Luba
Shankadi women at the end of the 19th century through to the 1920s.

A little more than ten years after the identification by Fagg and Plass of the 'Master of the Cascade Coiffure', a stylistic study of the
works which had been attributed to this hand allowed the separation of the studies works in to two groups: one by two specific artists
active in the end of the 19th century and first years of the 20th century, and an another group of pieces carved by the atelier
(Bassani, 1976: 86 and Neyt, 1993:184).

Analyzing the corpus of neckrests iconographically Neyt (1993:183) divided them into six groups. The 'very beautiful' example
(Bassani, 1976:87) from the Studer collection was placed in group three: 'two people face to face with (for the two people)a cascade
coiffure' (Neyt, 1993, ibid.). The others in this group are:The neckrest in the British Museum, decorated with beads (Bassani, 1976:83,
n17) The neckrest, formerly in the collection of Charles Ratton (the first to be identified) (Bassani, ibid.:85, n 19) The neckrest in The
Royal Museum of Central Africa, Tervuren with a light patina, but less refined in carving style, and placed by Bassani in an atelier
(Bassani, ibid.:85, n 22)

The utilitarian function of the neckrests permitted members of important Luba families to preserve their elaborate coiffures overnight,
the neckrests were also considered by the Luba as 'service of dreams'. They influenced the dreams, considered by the Luba as
prophetic (Nooter-Roberts in Philipps, 1995:287). The right to place the leg on the knee or the thigh of another?the attitude shown in
the figures on the Studer neckrest?'suggests a sign of allegiance and alliance'.

haut. 17,3 cm, long. 15,3 cm

6 3/4 in

Estimate: € 200,000 - € 250,000  
Price Realized: € 1,356,000  
$ 1,633,735
Christie's - Amsterdam
Auction Date : Sep 12, 2002


By Kiloko The support carved as a kneeling female figure with the arms raised to support the curved top,
lozenge panels of keloids to the chest and abdomen, vertical double band of keloids to the forehead,
incised ridged coiffure, the eyes and mouth as raised ovals with horizontal slits, diagonal cross-hatched
panels about the rim of the rectangular base, hatched panels to each end of the top, dark glossy patina
14.5cm. high NOTES Cf. Pierre de Maret, Nicole Dery and Cathy Murdoch, 'The Luba Shankadi Style', in
African Arts, Vol.VII, number 1, Autumn 1973, where they illustrate on the cover of the magazine a very
similar headrest now in the Afrika Museum, Tervuren, by the same hand. Kiloko worked in the village of
Busangu, about seventy kilometres from Kamina. Four works were acquired from him by S. Peeraer circa

Estimate: $ 4,850 - $ 7,760  
Price Realized: $ 11,012
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