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Old 23rd June 2023, 09:04 PM   #1
shayde78
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Default Lega Ivory Figure

So, on a whim, I placed a small bid on an object I thought was carved out of cow/bovine bone. I thought it looked Mesopotamian, but figured it was carved by a hobbyist in modern times.

We've all had moments when we didn't look closely enough at the photos and descriptions of an item and were had our expectations confounded when the item arrives. This is one such example.

It would seem I am now in possession of a hefty Lega figure carved out of ivory. This is no small trinket, and had deep meaning to its original owner.

I found a good resource describing these here https://www.randafricanart.com/Lega_ivory_figures.html

Per this site, "The iginga statues in ivory are the exclusive and individual property of the initiated association bwami ... In the
absence of information collected at the time of the collection with his owner, it unfortunately impossible to identify
his specific meaning and his name. Of more general manner, all initiated lutumbo lwa kindi possesses at least a
statue of this type, obtained at the time of his accession to this very high rank. According to Biebuyck (in Tervuren,
1995: 381), these statues most often were inherited of a deceased parent after having been displayed on his
grave. Each is associated with a specific aphorism. They "recall the virtues of the initiated past generations, they
maintain rules and moral, social, lawful and philosophical norms defended by their predecessors; they are the links
between the past generations and present [and constitute at last] sacra, sacred objects, fill vital force" (idem).
(Sotheby's 2005)"

I'm curious if anyone knows anything further about these figures. I never intended to collect one, but now that I have, I would love to know more.

Thanks everyone!
-Rob
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Old 25th June 2023, 01:18 AM   #2
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I realized I didn't provide any actual specifications on the dimensions.

The figure is about 22cm tall.
It weighs 10.25 ounces (290.58 grams).

And, as one if the photos in the first post shows, it stands freely, which further demonstrates the care with which it was crafted, and the skill involved, especially considering the legs are separate pieces.

If anyone would like additional detail, just let me know.
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Old 25th June 2023, 09:53 PM   #3
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Very nice ivory figurine!

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 26th June 2023, 06:59 PM   #4
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It's certainly a very interesting item, but are you sure it is ivory. I don't have it in hand, but i don't see any Schreger Lines which would be present if this was elephant ivory. Doesn't appear to be hippo ivory. I would image those would be the two most common ivory sources for an artifact from this area.
I have read that these figures can be bone sometimes as well as ivory, so it being bone would not make it less authentic. As you have discovered already, these are rather powerful objects for an very elite group of people initiated into secret societies within their tribal structure. If you hold onto this you should keep that in mind. I think it is something you don't have to be particularly superstitious to acknowledge. I do wonder how important objects like this ever end up in auctions.
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Old 27th June 2023, 12:41 AM   #5
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Thank you both for the feedback.

David, I'm quite certain the lines running down the torso are, indeed, Schreger Lines. I'm usually very hesitant to claim the tilt on a knife or sword is ivory. However, this being a solid piece of material, its heft, and its overall appearance makes me more confident in it being ivory than I'm used to being. That said, I would greatly appreciate if you're willing to lend your more experienced judgment if there are additional pictures I can take to aid in your analysis. Simply let me know and I'm happy to upload them.

Again, I truly appreciate the willingness to share your thoughts and impressions.

Thank you,
-Rob
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Old 27th June 2023, 04:36 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shayde78 View Post
David, I'm quite certain the lines running down the torso are, indeed, Schreger Lines.
Hello Rob,

The lines running down the torso are not Schreger Lines but age cracks but like you I am sure that it's indeed ivory.

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 1st July 2023, 07:24 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Sajen View Post
The lines running down the torso are not Schreger Lines but age cracks but like you I am sure that it's indeed ivory.
As Detlef points out, the lines running down the torso are not Schreger Lines. Schreger Lines present themselves in a cross-hatch pattern. The absence of Schreger Lines does not mean you item is not ivory, but probably that it is not elephant ivory, since that is where these lines are usually prevalent.
I am not not at all sure that your doll is not some other type of ivory, but i am equally not sure it is. I have had this keris hilt for a number of years that looks somewhat similar to your material that i also don't think is ivory.
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Old 1st July 2023, 07:27 PM   #8
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Rob, this is what Schreger Lines look like.
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Old 2nd July 2023, 05:16 PM   #9
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Hi Rob,

David has shown a cross-sectional cut through ivory, which displays the Schreger's Line criss-crossing the cut surface. Other lines are also visible as fine concentric rings (around a small central pulp area that is not shown in that picture).

Tusks are modified teeth, and all tusks have some element of the central pulp found in teeth. What we recognize as ivory is the equivalent of tooth dentine that makes up the majority of the ivory tusk.

The straight lines on your ivory figure are caused by longitudinal sections through these concentric rings. This is definitely ivory and not bone.

A nice description of ivory, bone, horn, and antler, and their care, can be found on this site: https://www.canada.ca/en/conservatio...rn-antler.html
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Old 3rd July 2023, 04:25 AM   #10
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Thank you Ian, Detlef, and David!

I will try to take some additional photos that may confirm the presence, or lack thereof of Schreger lines.

In the meantime, I tracked down the catalogue description from 2005, when that similar item sold at auction. You can view the listing here https://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions...4/lot.168.html

Since pages can disappear, I'll paste the relevant text below. Also, visiting the Sotheby's page, you'll see they list the material as hippo ivory, so that may help with identifying the material of my piece:

"The Studer-Koch iginga statue bears a rich and deep patina, evidencing a long period of handling, and was likely already several generations old at the time of its collection in 1937. Within the corpus of Lega ivory figures, it is distinguished by the unconventional rendering of the limbs in cascadic form, a unique stylistic feature. Its resonnanace with Modernist sensibilities prompted the French connoisseur Jean Paul Barbier-Mueller (2006: 334) to the following commentary: "There is no doubt that the Studer-Koch figurine is 'Primitivist' and aggressive in a quite unsettling way. Indeed, it is not a 'nice object.' [... Its] face is admirably modeled, its mouth is not lacking in ferocity, and its body is firmly planted on its two bowed legs. [... It occupies] a unique place in a large and well-known corpus.""

As always, thank you for the education,
-Rob

Last edited by shayde78; 4th July 2023 at 12:32 AM.
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Old 3rd July 2023, 07:34 AM   #11
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Hi Rob,

Interesting item in the Sotheby's link and indeed close to the one you have. I see that Sotheby's say that example is made from hippo ivory. I don't think yours is hippo ivory, I believe it is elephant ivory.
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Old 5th July 2023, 04:47 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian View Post
Hi Rob,

Interesting item in the Sotheby's link and indeed close to the one you have. I see that Sotheby's say that example is made from hippo ivory. I don't think yours is hippo ivory, I believe it is elephant ivory.
Agree with Ian about the material.
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Old 7th July 2023, 02:53 PM   #13
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But if it's hippo ivory it's easier to sell.
Just saying.

Regards
Richard
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Old 8th July 2023, 12:21 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard G View Post
But if it's hippo ivory it's easier to sell.
Just saying.

Regards
Richard
Aaaah, yes. I see your point Richard.
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Old 8th July 2023, 01:33 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard G View Post
But if it's hippo ivory it's easier to sell.
Just saying.

Regards
Richard
I have been wondering about this detail. Was this even legal for me to purchase? Is it possible to sell?

If these topics shouldn't be discussed here, you're all welcome to message me privately. I did reach out to Sotheby's for a valuation, but haven't heard back. Guidance on getting an appraisal is also appreciated.

Thanks all!
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Old 8th July 2023, 03:41 PM   #16
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We are getting into complicated issues regarding ivory items. There is information elsewhere on this site about the purchase and selling of ivory and some of the various legal implications of such dealings. I agree with Rob, that such discussions about his item should be taken to PM with him directly and not aired here.


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