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Male Figure with Raised Arms

Date:
16th–20th century
Geography:
Mali, Tintam village
Culture:
Dogon peoples
Medium:
Wood, patina
Dimensions:
H. 82 7/8 x W. 14 1/4 x D. 8 3/8 in. (210.5 x 36.2 x 21.3 cm)
Classification:
Wood-Sculpture
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1969
Accession Number:
1978.412.322
  • Description

    The most distinctive subject rendered by Dogon sculptors is that of a single figure standing with raised arms. This posture has usually been interpreted as a gesture of prayer—an effort to link earth and heavens—and it has been suggested that it may represent an appeal for rain. The Dogon manage to wrest subsistence crops from the poor soil of the elevated rocky heights of Mali's Bandiagara Escarpment.

    Dogon sculpture is primarily concerned with the spirits responsible for the fertility of both land and people. These include a family's real and mythical ancestors, the souls of women who died in childbirth, and water spirits.

    This masterpiece depicts a man with a well-modeled body in a naturalistic stance. The artist has carefully rendered the figure's musculature, anatomical detail, and body ornament. His stylized beard identifies him as an elder and an individual whose age and experience entitle him to participate in the most important religious, political, and social affairs of Dogon society. The figure wears wristlets, armlets, and anklets that indicate his status, as well as a belt and neck pendants resembling leather talismans that also suggest his spiritual importance.

  • Provenance

    [John J. Klejman, New York, until 1958]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1958–1962; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1962–1978

  • See also
    Who
    What
    Where
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
310765:3

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