1) I'm not a geologist, but I know the words "soapstone" and
"steatite" are used quite imprecisely in the marketplace, not
always being as soft as in the definition you provided.
2) One site on the web says "On Mohs Scale of Hardness Steatite
has a range of 2 to 5." That is quite a range and you certainly
would not be able to scratch a Mohs 5 rock with your fingernail.
Apparently the hardness of "steatite" has much to do with which
other minerals combine with the talc.
3) Now that you have provided some close-up pics, my guess would
be that the stone is probably one of the harder steatites.
4) Your additional pics also tend to make me want to withdraw
my suggestion of "proto-Yoruba" and lean more heavily towards
the ntadi/mintadi possibility.
5) Which means that possibly the most relevant pic so far is
the first one I provided, which was of a piece from the Israel
museum, also in the kneeling position, identified as a ntadi
dated 16th-19th century:
--- On Wed, 12/5/10, rpearsonpe <rpearsonpe@...> wrote:
> From: rpearsonpe <rpearsonpe@...>
> Subject: [African_Arts] Re: Stone figure for identification
> To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
> Received: Wednesday, 12 May, 2010, 6:44 AM
> Thank you all (especially William K,
> we both like the 'unknown') for your opinions and
> suggestions of origin. The Ntadi Google search is amazing
> for the information and links that pop up. Searching DRC
> also brings up some interesting sites.
> To help with identification I have included several
> additional photos of what may well be my Ntadi in very good
> shape (or a recent fake in great shape). Most examples I
> have seen are seated 'cross-legged' rather than kneeling,
> but there are variations. For comparison I have also
> included several photos of a Maternity Ntadi.
> Note the difference in degradation of the stone. The
> subject stone may not have been 'buried' and dug up, while
> the second may have seen a period underground. The subject
> figure can not be scratched by a fingernail but can with a
> knife; the maternity figure I did not try scratching but
> appeared to be harder than soapstone. Where's a geologist
> when you need one.
> Kongo Mboma people carved grave figures called Mintadi
> (Bacquart pg 129).
> Phillips ' The Art of a Continent' pg's 250-251:
> "Ntadi" funerary monument carved from 'stone',1600 to 1850;
> and Ntadi/tumba/kinyongo with maternity a common theme, 1850
> to 1920's. Mine appeared harder than soapstone.
> Better yet, from William K. "Speculating much further, and
> more wildly: If your piece does show
> probable antiquity, then I would guess the piece might be
> Maybe with a hint of Egyptian bloodline ?
> Photos added to the original set of photos.
> SOAPSTONE (steatite)- Among the softest stone, Soapstone is
> used for stone carvings because of its softness and color
> options. You can
> produce a work with concentration of form rather than how
> much work has
> to go into the stone. A quick test is to run your
> fingernail on the stone and,
> if that produces powder, it is Soapstone.
> --- In African_Arts@yahoogroups.com,
> William Klebous <klebous@...> wrote:
> > While certainly not Egyptian, I think there is at
> least a chance that
> > your figure is ancient/archaeological, rather than
> being from any of
> > the more recent cultural groups mentioned by
> respondents thus far...
> > Although I can't site any references at the moment,
> there are 1000 year
> > old wood and stone pieces from Ethiopia and Sudan that
> in my opinion
> > show a bridge between the sculpture of ancient Egypt
> and tribal Africa...
> > In saying this, I am not suggesting either Ethiopia or
> Sudan as
> > likely sources for your piece. I am simply
> saying that I think
> > there are doubtless many still unknown
> cultural/artistic expressions
> > on the African continent over the past two thousand
> years. Unfortunately most would have been in wood and
> are therefore long gone, but some I'm
> > sure would have been in stone, and have yet to be
> > Perhaps your piece is one of these...
> > In saying this, I am going strictly by form. It would
> take a fairly
> > expert analysis of the surface characteristics of the
> stone to know
> > if this ancient angle is even worth further
> > And even if such expert analysis were to put a high
> liklihood on the
> > piece being ancient, remember that nobody is going to
> believe it anyway
> > unless similar pieces are discovered in controlled
> scientific digs...
> > Especially since you have absolutely no indication on
> how or where the
> > piece was discovered...
> > Bottom line: It is most likely a fake/fantasy piece of
> > sort, created to lure in a risk-taking
> collector. But if an expert
> > analysis of the surface seems to indicate genuine age,
> then maybe
> > you've got one of those great anomalies on your hands
> which the
> > market hates but which I for one love...
> > Speculating much further, and more wildly: If your
> piece does show
> > probable antiquity, then I would guess the piece might
> be proto-Yoruba.
> > (For what its worth, I am one of those who believe
> that the famous
> > Ife bronzes show definite direct influence from
> ancient Egypt, and also
> > one of those who thinks he can even see Egyptian
> influence in Yoruba
> > art and culture.)
> > --- On Fri, 7/5/10, rpearsonpe <rpearsonpe@...>
> > > From: rpearsonpe <rpearsonpe@...>
> > > Subject: [African_Arts] Stone figure for
> > > To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
> > > Received: Friday, 7 May, 2010, 2:47 AM
> > > Bought this stone figure from a major
> > > collector who did not know the tribe or purpose.
> It is
> > > possible it is not African. I have seen nothing
> in any of my
> > > reference books resembling it. One guess is it
> may be
> > > Egyptian.
> > >
> > > The piece is 6" x 6" x 15" tall. The stone is a
> hard stone,
> > > not soapstone or the kind found as a gravestone.
> > > The head may have been re-attached and repaired
> at the
> > > neck; if so it was an expert job.
> > >
> > > Three photos under 'stone figure for
> > > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/African_Arts/photos/album/1953029396/pic/list
> > > bob
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > ------------------------------------
> > >
> > > African Arts and Culture Discussion Group
> > >
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> > >
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> > >
> > > *Message archives for the group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/African_Arts/messages
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> > >
> > >
> > > African_Artsemail@example.com
> > >
> > >
> > >
> African Arts and Culture Discussion Group
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