late 1800s-early 1900s
Copper alloy, wood, upholstery studs, and iron alloy
Overall: 44.7 x 22.2 x 3.2 cm (17 5/8 x 8 3/4 x 1 1/4 in.)
René and Odette Delenne Collection, Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 2010.444
This x-shapes of the cross and on Christ's wrapper are forms with symbolic meaning tied to the life cycle in both Catholicism and in the indigenous Kongo religion.
An artist made this crucifix from wood and metal centuries after Catholicism became the Kongo Kingdom’s official faith. Following King Nzinga a Nkuwu's 1491 decision to convert, Kongo Christianity uniquely reflected its surroundings. While early Christ images arrived from Portugal and Italy, this later local example has braids like a Kongo man. Worn smooth by repeated touch, the lower figure is the Virgin Mary or a worshiper knelt in mourning or respect. The x-shape incised into his waist wrapper references the dikenga dia Kongo. This likely pre-Christian symbol diagrams the life cycle's four points.
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