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Figure: Head

Date:
16th century
Geography:
Sierra Leone
Culture:
Sapi-Portuguese or Sapo (?)
Medium:
Steatite
Dimensions:
H. 10 3/16 x W. 8 1/2 x D.14 1/4 in. (26 x 21.6 x 36.2 cm)
Classification:
Stone-Sculpture
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1965
Accession Number:
1978.412.375
  • Description

    Little is known of the original use and significance of this tradition of steatite sculpture, created in southeastern Sierra Leone and western Guinea in the sixteenth century. The massive head, bulging eyes, broad nose with flaring nostrils, full lips, and jaw relate stylistically to works in carved ivory from the same period created by local artisans for European patrons. Attributes of this figure, such as the elaborate coiffure, scarifications, and filed teeth, suggest that it represents an individual of rank and distinction. Such works in durable materials are important documents that provide a glimpse into indigenous cultural practices of earlier periods. In the relatively recent past, these sculptures have been unearthed by local farmers of Kissi and Mende heritage who have assimilated them into new contexts as part of their own ritual life.

  • Provenance

    [René Rasmussen, Galerie AAA, Paris, 1934–1960]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1960–1965; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1965–1978

  • See also
    Who
    What
    Where
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
310813

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