Live Virtual Auction, 17 - 18 May 2021
About this Item
An early and important work in Schönfeldt’s oeuvre, Prototype I reflects a fascination with the up-turning of some traditional religious iconography. The prophet Ezekiel, who is prevalent in Hebrew, Christian and Islamic literature, has a vision of four living creatures, who represent God as throne bearers, and often appear as a multi-headed living being. The creatures are a lion, an ox, an eagle and a man. Schönfeldt works with these creatures and contraries their gender, by representing them as their female counterparts. In the images he produces, there is an imagining of what a pan-African religion could potentially be and what these icons derived from religious texts might look like, using alternate female icons.
In the present lot, Schönfeldt draws on a particular creature from this iconography, representing a three-headed, six-legged cow carved from Eucalyptus globulus or blue gum wood sourced at Crown Mines in Johannesburg. The creature’s heads are painted bright blue, its flanks covered by a small, varnished painting bearing a male nude with an erect penis, a knife, and the words, ‘curios and authentic works of art’ – linking to his position as curator and researcher at Meneghelli Holdings. Schönfeldt recalls that the carving of the creature, which is in multiple parts that fit together closely and has articulated ears, was labour intensive. The overall shape of the present lot, when viewed from the top may have been influenced by the shape of an Ethiopian Coptic cross, an intertextual referencing across religions and their iconography.