Seated male figure

CULTURE:
Baule peoples
DATE:
1875–1900
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General Description

Many traditional African artists portray their subjects as youthful, regardless of their true age. Though depicted as a muscular youth, this figure has a long beard denoting old age and wisdom. He is also civilized, as indicated by his carefully groomed hair, scarification marks, and manicured fingernails and toenails, as well as his calm and contemplative facial expression. The lighter color of the wood in the area of his loins suggests the figure was originally clothed.

Used by Baule diviners to beautify a shrine room, sculpted figures attract spirits to the divination ritual and encourage them to reveal solutions to a client's problems. Because it was made to please only the spirits, it was covered with white cloth.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2015.

Fun Facts

This work was collected in the 1930s by the Russian painter Isaac Païlès (1895-1978).