Palm Wine Gourd
Bamum and Bamileke people, Cameroon Grasslands
mid 20th Century
Plam wine gourds are important implements from the Cameroon Grasslands diverse traditions. These are often represented on Royal figures. Large anthropomorphic figures were even made to hold such gourds (such as the famous one collected by Pierre Harter and now at the Quai Branly Museum).
It is difficult to date them as they have been made in the same fashion for a long time. The Ethnographic Museum of Berlin conserves several ones dating from before 1910 and Henri Labouret collected one presenting the exact same construction and design in 1934 (Musée du Quai Branly Inv 71.1934.171 1121). These can also be seen on old field photographs (illustrations here from the Musée du Quai Branly collection #PP0131879, date unknown - and Ethnographic Museum of Berlin, Foumban palace, C 1909 - see gourds on the right )
This particular example presents the specificity to come from the estate of Yves Saint Laurent, the iconic French fashion designer. I enclose a photograph where it appears in his Paris Avenue de Breteuil flat, circa 1974. Interestingly Saint Laurent had asked Jacques Grange to decorate this flat which he wanted "full of light, a working place". Among other pieces, Grange opted for a number of African art pieces (all of them quality objects, probably acquired from Saint Germain dealers back then) which he considered were bringing a sense of authenticity and spirituality to the living room.
Another palm wine gourd from the exact same workshop is also illustrated in "African Forms", the landmark book from the collection of Marc and Denise Ginzberg, p. 78.
The elegant natural form of the gourd is enhanced by the weaving straw reeds around it and for gripping as well as a row of cowry shells (it is that last decorative detail that make me think the piece is more probably from the mid 20th century rather than earlier)
The gourd is in excellent condition with a great oily patina of use. The original stopper is still present... as well as remains of Yves Saint Laurent's aura.
H: 53 cm (20 3/4 inches)
Price : 3000 Euros enquiry