LUBA Standing Woman


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Democratic Republic of Congo
50 cm high

Formerly in Belgian collection.
Lucas Ratton, Paris, France.

Published in the catalogue Série Noire, Galerie Ratton, Paris, France, 2013, p.64.

This Luba sculpture represents a standing woman.
Her pose is hieratic and there is a particular attention paid to the details of the sculpture. Some scarifications are present on the whole body, which are characteristic to the Luba ethnic group. Some of them are surrounding the belly and some others are located on the back of the sculpture.

The expression of the face is interiorised and some scarifications elongate the gaze of the woman. Her coif is very relaborated. It forms a cross as the most important model if Luba statuaries wera.
The woman is holding her breast which symbolises fertility.
The dark patina of the sculpture shows its ritual use and enhances its fine features.

The representation of women is omnipresent in Luba statuary. Standing, kneeling, bent or stretched, the body of the woman is revealed as an essential sign to tell the world, adjust the rhythms of nature, announce incantations. It reveals the words of beyond. The image of women in Luba art is elaborated in infinite variations, marking the significance of each object : statuette, spear, or calabash, which connect kings and leaders to their gods.

As a sacred theme, the woman is omnipresent in a symbolic universe that exalts her, and idealizes her. The woman is invested with an incomparable power: giving life. Carving a whole body or only a face is an act of the highest spirituality as the beliefs and history of the Luba people are expressed through the women.

Artists, often grouped into workshops, perpetuated ancestral techniques of carving from generation to generation. Carving wood is the most common practice amongst the Luba tribe. Women’s gestures and postures make them look attractive. Luba artists managed to create this effect, representing fertility, as their hands are joined on their chest or stomach, as a gesture of offering.

Some characteristics of the Luba sculptures are recurrent. A lexicon limited to a few essential features can be recognized from one work to another. Those features claim the generosity and beauty of the female body. Sculptors structure and rhythm certain attributes such as sex, breasts and buttocks. These are essential parts in the dynamics of Luba statuary. The thorax and abdomen which sometimes provide scarification patterns are carved not as simple anatomical details but as formal elements, important for the harmony of the whole.

Shaped as chignons, ridges, coiled braids or raised, the sophisticated hairstyles increase the volume of the head and participate in the sublimation of feminine beauty. Furthermore, hairstyles are distinctive criterias for determining membership to a stylistic group, the identification of the hand of a sculptor or the influence of a workshop.

The aesthetic of this figure shows the ability of the Luba artists to find balance between idealism and naturalism.

Primitive Art Collection