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Funerary Urn

A work made of ceramic.

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  • A work made of ceramic.


19th/early 20th century


Democratic Republic of the Congo or northern Angola
Central Africa

About this artwork

Kongo women handbuilt most pottery for domestic use, but men produced ceramics for sale to outside markets and for ritual use. Burial urns—variously referred to as grave objects or funerary columns—are defined by their tall, hollow, open, and cylindrical form and are known as mabondo. While European visitors to the region in the 17th century described terracottas on Kongo graves, recent scholarship indicates that the form actually originated in the 19th century. Wealthy Kongo commissioned these works to commemorate the dead. This example has roughly rendered figures on the top portion, lying down, sitting up, and playfully interacting with one another. The middle section has incised lines creating an interlacing pattern that is similar to patterns found on textiles from the region. As is common with other examples of these terracotta grave objects, the bottom section is perforated and the top and base are open. These objects ceased being made sometime in the 1930s.


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Arts of Africa




Funerary Urn


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.





H.: 42 cm (16 1/2 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of the Britt Family Collection

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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