Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Figure: Seated Couple

Date:
18th–early 19th century
Geography:
Mali, southern cliff
Culture:
Dogon peoples
Medium:
Wood, metal
Dimensions:
H. 28 3/4 x W. 9 5/16 in. (73 x 23.7 cm)
Classification:
Wood-Sculpture
Credit Line:
Gift of Lester Wunderman, 1977
Accession Number:
1977.394.15
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

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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.

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

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