Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Figure: Seated Couple

18th–early 19th century
Mali, southern cliff
Dogon peoples
Wood, metal
H. 28 3/4 x W. 9 5/16 in. (73 x 23.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Lester Wunderman, 1977
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 350
This work's scale and complexity have led scholars to suggest that it may have been created for display at the funerals of influential Dogon men. The graphic composition constitutes an eloquent statement concerning the distinct and yet complementary roles of male and female partners as a unit of life. With understated elegance and an economy of details, the artistic distills man and woman to a perfectly integrated and harmonious union. One of the most striking aspects of the representation is the degree of bilateral symmetry that describes man and woman as reflections of each other with delicate and subtle departures that indicate their distinct identities. The figures' elongated bodies are depicted as a series of parallel vertical lines traversed by horizontals that draw them together. On the reverse side a small child clinging to the female's back is balanced by a quiver on the back of the male. That concluding pair of features distinguishes their respective role as nurturer and provider joined together to procreate and sustain life.
[Henri Kamer, Paris and New York]; Lester Wunderman, New York, until 1977

Leuzinger, Elsy. Afrikanishe Skulpturen, Beschreibender Katalog. Zurich: Atlantis Verlag, 1963.

Millot, Jacques. Arts Connus et Méconnus de l'Afrique Noire: Collection Paul Tishman. Paris: Musée de l'Homme, 1966.

Leuzinger, Elsy, and Walter Bangerter. Afrikanische Kunstwerke: Kulturen am Niger. Recklinghausen: A. Bongers, 1971.

Kan, Michael. "The Wunderman Collection: Dogon Sculpture and the Understanding of African Art." ArtNews vol. 72 (1973), p. 76.

Laude, Jean. African Art of the Dogon: The Myths of the Cliff Dwellers. New York: Brooklyn Museum, 1973, no. 37, p. 33, front cover (image reversed).

Imperato, Pascal James. "The art of Mali's Mountain People." In Dogon Cliff Dwellers. New York: L. Kahan Gallery, New York, 1978.

Jones, Julie. Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1975–1979. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979, p. 94.

Jones, Mark. The art of the medal. London, 1979, pp. 91–96.

Vogel, Susan M. African Sculpture: The Shape of Surprise. Greenvale, NY: C.W. Post Art Gallery, 1980.

DeMott, Barbara. Dogon Masks: A Structural Study of Form and Meaning. Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1982, 6, Laude 1973, Flam 1970.

Kerchache, Jacques. Chefs d'oeuvre de l'art Africain: Musée de Grenoble, 1982. Grenoble: Musée de Grenoble, 1982.

Vogel, Susan M. African Aesthetics: The Carl Monzino Collection. New York: Center for African Art, 1986, 6, pp. 9-11.

Vogel, Susan M. Aesthetics of African Art: The Carlo Monzino Collection. New York: Center for African Art, 1986.

Newton, Douglas, Julie Jones, and Kate Ezra. The Pacific Islands, Africa, and the Americas/The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987, no. 42, p. 64.

Sieber, Roy, and Roslyn Walker. African Art in the Cycle of Life. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1987.

Ezra, Kate. Art of the Dogon: Selections from the Lester Wunderman Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1988, no. 23.

Van Beek, Walter E. A. "Functions of Sculpture in Dogon Religion." African Arts vol. 21, no. 4 (August 1988), p. 63.

Nooter, Nancy Ingram, and Warren Robbins. African Art in American Collections: Survey 1989. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989, fig. 15.

Paudrat, Jean-Louis. Dogon. Paris: Editions Dapper, 1994, pp. 47, 85.

LaGamma, Alisa. Echoing Images: Couples in African Sculpture. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004, Frontispiece.

Related Objects

Figure: Seated Couple

Artist: Date: 18th–early 19th century
Accession Number: 1977.394.15
Date: 18th–early 19th century Medium: Wood, metal Accession: 1977.394.15 On view in:Gallery 350


Artist: Date: 16th–20th century
Accession Number: 1979.541.1
Date: 16th–20th century Medium: Wood, sacrificial materials Accession: 1979.541.1 On view in:Gallery 350

Rider Figure on Quadruped

Artist: Date: 16th–19th century
Accession Number: 1978.412.487
Date: 16th–19th century Medium: Wood (Canarium, Burseracea wood), encrustation Accession: 1978.412.487 On view in:Gallery 350

Seated Figure

Artist: Date: 13th century
Accession Number: 1981.218
Date: 13th century Medium: Terracotta Accession: 1981.218 On view in:Gallery 350

Female Figure with Mortar and Pestle

Artist: Date: 16th–early 20th century
Accession Number: 1979.541.12
Date: 16th–early 20th century Medium: Wood, iron Accession: 1979.541.12 On view in:Gallery 350