Masterpieces from Central Africa: the Tervuren Museum
Prestel, 1996 - Art - 200 pages
King Leopold II of Belgium founded the Tervuren Museum in 1897 as a "window on Central Africa" for the Belgian people, to draw attention to the opportunities for trade that existed there. He had ruled the Congo Free State (now Zaire) from 1885 and was still king of Belgium when it annexed the territory in 1908 as the Belgian Congo.
The Congo was the destination of many scientific and ethnographic expeditions; among the most notable was one undertaken by E. Torday and T.A. Joyce of the British Museum from 1907 to 1909. The most famous, however, was the first of all: in 1877, six years after his legendary meeting with Dr. Livingstone in neighboring Tanzania, Henry M. Stanley traced the hitherto unexplored Congo River as a reporter with the New York Herald.
Missionaries, civil servants, scientists, and travelers brought back a plethora of indigenous artifacts, cultural treasures and some superb photographic records from these expeditions, including material that documented decades of cultures that had already disappeared. For many years, until interest in 'ethnographica' grew in the art world, the aesthetic value of this 'Aladdins's Cave' of objects went unrecognized by all the but specialists. So many dossiers were compiled and objects collected that much of the material has remained unseen by the general public for over three generations.
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