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HOME : African & Tribal Art : AS.On Loan : Dan Brass Sculpture of a Woman
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Dan Brass Sculpture of a Woman - PF.6068 (LSO)
Origin: Liberia
Circa: 19 th Century AD to 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 10.75" (27.3cm) high
Collection: African
Medium: Brass

Additional Information: AS
Location: UAE
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This attractive brass figure of a standing woman with a child on her back was made by the Dan group of Liberia and the Ivory Coast. It is an elegant form, with elongated limbs, a long torso and outstretched arms. The face resembles the deconstructed style of most Dan masks, with a long nose, nugatory eyes and protuberant lips. The limbs are flexed at elbow and knee, and are also decorated with bracelets and bangles, as it the waist and neck. The patina is aged and attractive.

The Dan are a farming tribe, settled in the semi- wooded areas of Liberia and the Ivory Coast. While beholden to agriculture, much of their mythology and social structure is based upon the forest and its fiercer creatures – the Leopard Society is the main organ of social control. Dan society was originally a string of spatially- proximate but socially distinct communities, and while they are now – technically at least – centralised, their diversity has found expression in the range of masks and other artefacts that they manufacture.

The Dan are best known for their masks, designed for specific social functions. There are masks for fire-watching (= fire warden), social adjudicators, warriors, debt collectors, delinquents and warriors, and others for enlisting workers to clear paths, to catch runaway wives, to race unmasked athletes (“runner masks”) to snatch feast food to serve to children and even for spying. Masks were inherited through lineages, kept on altars and endowed with libations. However, figures are far rarer, and their usage is thus far less systematised. The only accounts of figures of this sort pertain to the habit of prominent chiefs who wish to honour their favourite wives. The figures were cared for, anointed and kept by the wife in question, and they were only seen in the event of dignitaries’ visitations. Metal figures were expensive objects, and were status objects within Dan society.

This is a rare and impressive piece of African art.

- (PF.6068 (LSO))


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