Squatting Male Figure
Arts of Africa
On View: Double Take Installation, East Gallery, 1st 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, copper alloy, glass beads, fiber, organic materials
late 19th century
7 1/2 x 1 3/4 x 2 in. (19.1 x 4.4 x 5.1 cm) (show scale)
Purchased with funds given by Frieda and Milton F. Rosenthal and Carll H. de Silver Fund
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Nsapo-Nsapo. Squatting Male Figure, late 19th century. Wood, copper alloy, glass beads, fiber, organic materials, 7 1/2 x 1 3/4 x 2 in. (19.1 x 4.4 x 5.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased with funds given by Frieda and Milton F. Rosenthal and Carll H. de Silver Fund, 80.100. Creative Commons-BY
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Standing figure of deep reddish-brown glossy tone. The legs are large and slightly flexed, a pronounced concave torso and very elongated arms with elbows resting on knees and hands touching chin. Oval head with beard and two pointed horns emerging from top. Face is carefully delineated with pointed chin, triangular nose, heavy-lidded eyes. The figure has large feet and stands on its own base, which is decorated with 15 brass tacks. A triple strand of glass beads, white and very light green, decorate the neck. Condition: good. Small round opening at top of hairline, another one on back between shoulders. Tip of right horn broken off and separate. Surface of figure sticky in some areas.
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