Late 19th-Century Luena Carved Staff

Value (2010) | $10,000 Insurance$15,000 Insurance

My family is from northern Italy, and through the years some of them needed to work elsewhere, different economies, and some worked in Switzerland as military men. And one man in particular was shipped to Africa, and he brought some beautiful pieces back.

And what would the year have been?

This was in the early 1900s.

This piece is late 19th century-- 1875 to 1900-- which really fits perfectly with the story that you have from the family. This is from the Chokwe Complex, and the Chokwe Complex really spans three countries-- the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia and Angola. We see that it's a female figure, and this is a staff. And as a staff, it is a prestige object. The individual that held this was a person of some authority. Now, what we want to see is wear patterns that are appropriate for this particular object. So if you look inside the grooves, there's no wear at all, but every single ridge here has kind of a shiny patina on it. Again, the breasts, the arm-- this is superbly carved. I want to also point out there's a wonderful metal bangle over here on the proper left arm. The scarification, you do see these cheek marks. Those really indicate a region and a tribal group, a sub-tribe of the Chokwe. I really believe it's Luena, partially because of these marks in the cheek, partially because of the coiffure. Now, a staff would be much longer. When they wanted to take these home, they chopped them off.

I understand.

You're probably missing about that much off the bottom of this. This is truly one of the finest African objects that we've had on this show.


We're in a little bit of a tough market right now. Chokwe pieces, Luena pieces are highly sought after. People love these things. The piece like this, as a conservative insurance value, would be $10,000 to $15,000.

Oh, really?

And, as the market improves, this is going to be worth more money. You're going to take care of this piece now, aren't you?

Absolutely. I think we'll insure it before we drive home.

Appraisal Details

Dallas, TX
Appraised value (2010)
$10,000 Insurance$15,000 Insurance
San Diego, CA (June 12, 2010)
19th Century
Carving, Staff

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