Female Diviner's Figure, Wood, pigment, beads, iron, Baule peoples

Female Diviner's Figure

19th–mid-20th century
Côte d'Ivoire, central Côte d'Ivoire
Baule peoples
Wood, pigment, beads, iron
H. 20 11/16 x W. 3 3/8 x D. 3 in. (52.5 x 8.6 x 7.6 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1969
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 352
Baule diviners are consulted by people who desire assistance in solving significant problems, perhaps relating to childbearing or other health concerns. Sculptures are often an important presence in divining sessions. Diviners may inherit such works from older colleagues or commission them based on the direction of a spirit whose insights they draw upon in their professional consultations.

This pair of sculptures for a trance diviner is among the most renowned masterpieces of Baule art. Though depicted as separate male and female figures, they are perfectly harmonized through matched gestures, stances, and expressions. Together they reflect and embody Baule ideals of civilized beauty, with their elegant coiffures, scarifications, and beaded ornaments. Their slightly downturned gazes and contained postures and their powerful, muscular legs are testimony to the figures' respectful demeanor and youthful health.
[Henri Kamer, Paris and New York, 1960]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1960–1969; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1969–1978

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 326.

The American Federation of Arts. Primitive Art Masterworks: an exhibition jointly organized by the Museum of Primitive Art and the American Federation of Arts, New York. New York: The American Federation of Arts, 1974, no. 68b.

Newton, Douglas. Masterpieces of Primitive Art: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978, p. 175.

Vogel, Susan M. Baule: African Art, Western Eyes. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997, p. 236.

LaGamma, Alisa. Art and Oracle: African Art and Rituals of Divination. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000, no. 1, pp. 22–23.