Ivory pendants and whistle

I do not have any Luba ivory pieces in my collection
This page is for reference and educational purposes
Luba ivory pendants are portraits, or at least likenesses, and are named and honored in memory of certain revered ancestors.
Sculpted from bone and horn as well as from ivory, these delicate diminutive figures were suspended from cords together with
other objects, including amulets, beads, and horns. The cords were worn diagonally across the chest or were attached to the
arm. Devotees anointed the figures with oil in homage to the ancestors. Such treatments, together with regular handling and
contact with the human body, gave the figures a smooth, lustrous surface and a rich caramel color ranging from yellowish-brown
to auburn. The figures were also sometimes attached to the tops of scepters carried by chiefs.

The facial features of many of these pendants have worn away from handling and wear over the years. The smooth caramel
surface and the worn armholes testify to extended use and suspension. Luba ivory pendants are among the most intimate and
personal of all Luba objects, and reflect a close association with the human body. Tiny enough to be easily held and caressed in
the hand, ivory pendants nevertheless uphold the same aesthetic as larger, more imposing Luba royal emblems.

Luba ivories were widely collected during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but are no longer used today.
Although each figure is slightly different in its detail, all share a minimalist conception of the human form, usually emphasizing
head and torso to the total exclusion of the legs. The gesture of the hands on the breasts signifies devotion, respect, and,
according to some Luba spokespersons, the containment

of royal secrets. Large demure eyes dominate the heads, which often incline along the natural curve of the ivory. Scarifications
are rendered generically as incised concentric circles; these embody fundamental principles of life and continuity. The coiffures
are intricately detailed to imitate actual Luba women's coiffures of the nineteenth century.

Source: Memory : Luba Art and the Making of History
Mary Nooter Roberts and Allen F. Roberts

Images below are from the book. Pieces range from 3 - 4 inches and are attributed to a "Private collection"
Luba ivory pendants in pairs
Ivory whistle

Like many Luba sculptures in wood, ivory pendants also were sometimes made in pairs.
Worn against the body, suspended from a cord, the paired pendants served to evoke the
memory of twinned ancestral spirits. Ivory. H. 3—4 in. Private collection
Luba ritual specialists such as diviners use whistles to call the spirits. Whistles are usually made from
wood, and are nonfigurative; this is a rare example of an anthropomorphic whistle made from ivory. The
figure shows some of the attributes important to Luba aesthetics, including an elegant coiffure and
scarification markings, represented schematically by the punched circles on the figure's torso. In
addition to rattles and bells, whistles were and are an important instrument for invoking the spirits'
attention and trust. Ivory. H. 3.6 in. Private collection.
An example from Sotheby's
May 2005
Property from a Private Collection
Lot 95
of overall cylindrical, hollowed form, with raised scarification and incised
circle and dot motifs, the bent arms and pendant breasts beneath the
large head with broad features and a tall forehead leading to the
backswept coiffure; varied creamy patina.
height 51/2in.    14cm
Pieces below are from:
Christie's - Paris
Art Africain, Océanien et Précolombien
Auction Date : Dec 8, 2004


République Démocratique du Congo
Représentant une femme, le corps s'arrêtant au niveau des hanches par deux anneaux, les mains tenant la poitrine,
trois cercles incisés sur le ventre dont un formant le nombril, le visage aux traits stylisés, les yeux fermés placés sous un
front bombé délimité par une tresse en léger relief, la coiffe formant une croix à l'arrière du crâne, les omoplates
saillantes se prolongeant par de fines épaules, les avant-bras séparés du buste, le cou percé latéralement pour
suspension. Belle patine miel.
Hauteur: 9 cm

Estimate:€ 30,000 - € 40,000  
Price Realized: € 70,500  
$ 84,940
Christie's - Paris
Art Africain, Océanien et Précolombien
Auction Date : Dec 8, 2004


République Démocratique du Congo
Représentant une femme debout sur de courtes jambes, les mains posées sur la poitrine, le large cou
supportant une tête aux traits du visage finement sculptés, portant une coiffure tressée formant un
bandeau sur le front et une croix à l'arrière. Percé latéralement pour suspension. Belle patine dorée.
Hauteur: 8.7 cm

Estimate:€ 1,200 - € 1,800
Price Realized:€ 6,462  
$ 7,786
Christie's - Paris
Art Africain et Océanien
Auction Date : Jun 7, 2005


Artist or Maker


République Démocratique du Congo
Représentant deux personnages, le corps s'arrêtant au niveau des hanches, les mains posées de chaque côté
du nombril saillant, le visage aux traits stylisés surmonté par un grand front bombé, avec un bandeau lisse pour
l'un, la coiffe formée de trois rainures à l'arrière du crâne. Patine allant du crème au brun, percés pour
suspension et rattachés par un lien de fibres végétales orné de perles bleues et blanches.
Hauteurs: 9 et 9.3 cm. (2)

Estimate:€ 3,000 - € 5,000
Price Realized:€ 3,360  
$ 4,048