Reliquary Figure

20th century
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: Gabon


Overall: 66 x 35 x 8 cm (26 x 13 3/4 x 3 1/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

wood and metal

Not On View


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art


Religious and cult objects

Kota reliquary figures were among the first African works to gain admiration in the West. Their anthropomorphic shape, with oversized head and lozenge-shaped upper torso, especially appealed to artists at the beginning of the twentieth century. This work was Mrs. McMillan’s first acquisition.

In their original settings, these figures guarded the bones and other relics of important ancestors, which family groups placed in baskets or wrapped in bundles and kept in small shelters. These potent reliquaries protected the living.


1970, sold by the Galerie Burgui, Paris, to Geneviève McMillan (b. 1922 - d. 2008), Cambridge, MA; 2008, to the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation, Cambridge; 2009, gift of the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation to the MFA. (Accession Date: June 17, 2009)

Credit Line

Gift of Geneviève McMillan in memory of Reba Stewart