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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Masterpieces of African Art : Lagoons Area Sculpture of a Seated Woman
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Lagoons Area Sculpture of a Seated Woman - PF.4510 (LSO)
Origin: Ivory Coast
Circa: 20th th Century AD

Collection: African
Medium: Wood
Condition: Intact

Location: United States
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This imposing sculpture of a seated woman holding a load on her head was made by one of the tribes of the Lagoons region of the SE Ivory Coast. The area is particularly known for the high degree of refinement of its sculptures, and this piece is no exception. It depicts a woman seated on the back of a chair, and her feet on the seat. The legs are very short and well-defined, giving way to a very elongated abdomen – with prominent navel – and block torso. The breasts are very pointed and sharp. The shoulders are square, with vertically-oriented, slender arms (each with a bracelet) supporting a cask-shaped block atop the figure’s head. The neck is columnar yet broad, with a typically Lagoons face – arched brows, a fine nose, a vestigial mouth and slim almond-shaped eyes. The coiffure is strongly defined around the vertical circumference of the head, leading to a highly ornate, pendulous queue of hair that tapers to a rounded eminence at the tip. The dark glossy texture of the figure contrasts strongly with the natural wood of the base, which has been somewhat eroded through age, use and perhaps insect damage.

The Lagoons people include about a dozen distinct groups, which are grouped into two main units (the Attye and the Ebrie), and are not usually confused with the Anyi, who are more influenced by local neighbours such as the Baule. Lagoons people are distinct from one another except in cases of threat, when they combine. Their social structure is based upon a gerontocracy. Artistically they are defined by carvings of astonishing refinement, with exceptionally serene expressions and attenuated proportions. They usually have highly ornate hairstyles, keloid scarifications that are rendered as removable plugs, and glossy patinas from usage. This pose is often seen but its significance is not understood. The figures were used by spiritual intermediaries to obtain information from the hereafter. There are also reports of highly gendered figures being used as spirit spouses, as in the Baule tradition. They are also said to have been display pieces at traditional dances, or awarded to excellent dancers and performers. They are usually adorned with beads, which are often more diagnostic in terms of area of origin than the piece itself.

This is a beautiful piece of Lagoons sculpture.

- (PF.4510 (LSO))


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