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A work made of terracotta.

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  • A work made of terracotta.


Early/mid–20th century


Zande or Barambo
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Central Africa

About this artwork

The deeply inscribed, swirling pattern that encircles the body of the bottle above is found on Barambo and Mangbetu potter from the early twentieth century, although it likely originated with the Barambo. The maker skillfully gauged the thickness of the bottle’s walls, making them substantial enough to accommodate the depth of carving without rendering the vessel overly heavy. A slightly metallic sheen and several fire clouds further enhance its appearance.
The centralized chiefdoms of the Mangbetu and Zande arose in the eighteenth century, and their influence cast a wide net. Among the Mangbetu and the closely related Barambo, pottery is typically practiced by women, while among the Zande it is men who control its production. Despite this, beginning in the late nineteenth century growing similarities between Mangbetu, Zande, and Barambo pottery reflect the spread of styles, potters, and their wares during a period of intensifying cultural contact. Ornate bottles for storing beer, oil, water, and wine were made as luxury items for rulers and the wealthy elite, and, increasingly in the early twentieth century, for European travelers.

—Entry, For Hearth and Altar, African Ceramics from the Keith Achepohl Collection (2005), pp. 163-165.


Currently Off View


Arts of Africa






Democratic Republic of the Congo (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.





30.5 × 20.3 cm (12 × 8 in.)

Credit Line

Edward E. Ayer Endowment in memory of Charles L. Hutchinson

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

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