Instructions for Practicing for the Midterm Project
● Choose an artwork discussed in the material this week
● Include an image of the artwork
● Include a caption (note that artwork titles are italicized)
○ The caption includes: Artist (if known), Title, date, materials,
dimensions, repository (or who owns it, often a museum)
○ Sample: Parmigianino, Madonna of the Long Neck, 1530-1533, oil
on panel, 73×60 cm, Uffizi, Florence
● Write one paragraph (5-6 sentences/a little more is ok) about how it relates to
the time and place where it was made. This can include a combination of the
following: why it was important when it was made; what it was used for; what
it symbolized; what story it tells. This paragraph MUST INCLUDE:
○ The name of the period/culture
○ A vocabulary word or key term. This could be about the form of the
object (eg. line), the technique (eg. lost wax casting),
philosophy/religion (eg. Islam), a historical event (eg. Ice Age), the
time period (eg. Bronze Age), how people lived (eg.
hunter/gatherer). See me if you need help with this
● One or two sentences about how what you learned about the object
challenged what you thought about the culture, history, the human
development or culture. If you didn’t know anything about the culture, these
sentences could be about what surprised you. This is an important part of the
● Include the webpages that you referred to in your research.
● Use your own words! Do not copy/paste. You may not get credit for the
Figure from a Reliquary Ensemble: Seated Female, 19th–early 20th century, Fang
peoples, Okak group, Gabon or Equatorial Guinea, wood, metal, 64 x 20 x 16.5 cm (The
Metropolitan Museum of Art). Video from the Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Fang peoples of Gabon believed that ancestral relics held great spiritual power.
Byeri was a Fang association devoted to the veneration of lineage ancestors and
founders, leaders, and fertile women who made significant contributions to society
during their lifetime. After death, their relics, particularly the skull, were conserved in
cylindrical bark containers and guarded by carved wooden heads or figures mounted
atop the receptacles.
The lustrous black surface of this carved female figure still glistens from repeated
applications of palm oil used for ritual purification. The sculptor shaped this figure to
illustrate the ability to hold opposites in balance, a quality admired by the Fang. He
juxtaposed the large head of an infant with the developed body of an adult. The static
pose and expressionless face contrast with the palpable tension of the bulging muscles
and the projecting forms of the arms, legs, and breasts. These reliquary sculptures may
be male or female and are not considered portraits of the deceased. They were often
decorated with gifts of jewelry or feathers and received ritual offerings of libations, such
as palm oil.
On the occasion of initiation into Byeri, the figures were removed from their containers
and manipulated like puppets in performances that dramatized the raising of the dead
for didactic purposes. During the early twentieth century, Fang reliquary sculpture began
to be acquired by Western collectors, who admired the inspired interpretation of the
human form. This particular work was formerly in the collections of two well- known
modernist artists, the painter André Derain and the sculptor Jacob Epstein.
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