Standing Male Figure
Arts of Africa
On View: Arts of the Americas Galleries, 5th Floor
ART OF THE BODY
These five artworks from throughout the African continent display the range of approaches artists have taken to figural representation. They prove that the Western tradition of naturalism— depicting the body precisely as observed in life—is not even remotely the only possibility open to an artist.
The Mossi mask celebrates the female form. While it is not an exact replica of the body, the proportions are relatively balanced. The Yoruba tapper, used with a board to draw images during divinations, was carved with more exaggerated proportions, partly in order to contain it within the functional form of a tapper and the shape of the ivory from which it was carved.
The Fang figure, a masterpiece by a known artist or workshop, has primarily been reduced to a series of basic shapes—cylinders and circles. The legs and hips are conceived as the intersection of two perpendicular cylinders, echoing the cylindrical reliquary box on which the figure sat. The small Nsapo-Nsapo work and the Chamba figure take the abstraction of the human form even further by greatly exaggerating the proportions. The Nsapo-Nsapo example's stretched arms and the Chamba sculpture's outsized hands suggest different emotional states for these two protective figures—a tense anxiety, perhaps, in one and a lumbering aggression in the other.
Wood, organic materials
early 20th century
24 3/8 x 6 x 5 in. (61.9 x 15.2 x 12.7 cm) (show scale)
Gift in honor of William C. Siegmann in recognition of his contributions to the study and understanding of African Arts
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Chamba. Standing Male Figure, early 20th century. Wood, organic materials, 24 3/8 x 6 x 5 in. (61.9 x 15.2 x 12.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift in honor of William C. Siegmann in recognition of his contributions to the study and understanding of African Arts, 2011.31.1. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2011.31.1_PS6.jpg)
overall, 2011.31.1_PS6.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2011
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Standing male figure with a flat central crest running down middle/top of the head. Figure has outsized hands, limbs that join the torso at a sharp and irregular angle below an open, gaping mouth, and a severely reduced face, whose only other distinguishing feature is a pair of slightly raised mounds suggesting eyes. The entire work is covered in a fine and even sacrificial patina. Stands on an attached wooden base.
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