Copper Alloy Crucifix (Nkangi Kiditu)
Kongo People, Congo
circa 17th century
height: 18.2cm, width: 8.4cm
This crucifix, cast in solid bronze, is known as a Nkangi Kiditu, and is from the Kongo people of the Congo. It has been cast with a central Christ figure, with African features, and three secondary figures with hands clasped. Christ is portrayed with the left ankle over the right, with a small loin cloth cast with radiating geometric patters to denoye weaving, and hair arrayed in bands.
The top of the cross has been cast with a small lug for suspension.
The Portuguese presence in the coastal regions of west Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries saw the local tribal people absorb European influence. The Kingdom of Kongo, founded in the 14th century, has some of the earliest Christian influence in sub-Saharan Africa.
The conversion to Christianity in 1512 of King Alfoso I of the Kongo saw the subsequent creation by Kongolese bronze casters of Christian crucifixes and images of the Virgin Mary and St Anthony after Portuguese prototypes. In time, the local form of Christianity blurred increasingly with traditional beliefs and Christian symbols became emblems of power and instruments in local ritual.
to see a related example in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, attributed to the 16th or 17th century.
for two offered at Christie’s.
Related examples are also illustrated in Thiel & Helf (1984, p. 93), Bassani and Fagg (1988, p. 44), Quarcoopome (2009, p. 196) and in Thorton
et al (2017). The Musee du Quai Branly Jacques Chirac in Paris held an exhibition on Christian-related art from the Congo in 2017. A catalogue Du Jordain au Congo: Art et Christianisme en Afrique Centrale, was published in association with the exhibition.
The surface of the example here has a chocolate-brown patina and much wear from handling. The reverse has encrustation. It is accompanied by a high-quality, custom-made black metal stand.
Bassani, E. & W. Fagg, Africa and the Renaissance: Art in Ivory, The Center for African Art/Prestel-Verlag, 1988.
Quarcoopome, N. O.,
Through African Eyes: The European in African Art, 1500 to Present, Detroit Institute of Arts, 2009.
Thiel, J. F. & H. Helf,
Christliche Kunst in Afrika, Dietrich Reimer, 1984.
et al, Du Jordain au Congo: Art et Christianisme en Afrique Centrale, Musee du Quai Branly Jacques Chirac/Flammarion, 2017.
Inventory no.: 4620