H x W x D: 6 1/8 x 2 1/4 x 1 7/8in. (15.6 x 5.7 x 4.8cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert S. Gilliam Jr., 1981
Not on view
Baule peoples and their neighbors to the West, the Guro, are famous as weavers, and are known for their fine indigo-and-white cotton fabrics. Used on the traditional narrow-band loom, heddle pulleys are functional objects used to ease the movements of the heddles while separating the warp threads and allowing the shuttle to seamlessly pass through the layers of thread. Like many other carved objects used in everyday activities among the Baule, these pulleys were often embellished for the weaver’s delight. Scholars have suggested that the prominent display of pulleys, hanging over the weaver’s loom in the public place, afforded artists their best opportunity to showcase their carving skills, in the hope to attract commissions for figures and masks. This ingenious example features a bat hanging upside down. It demonstrates the efforts put by Baule and Guro carvers into beautifying the simplest functional object.
Harold Rome, New York; [Ben Heller, New York]; Mr. and Mrs. Robert Gilliam, Jr., Charlottesville, VA, until 1981