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Figure of a Man Holding a Crocodile

Arts of Africa

On View: African Storage Annex, East Gallery, 1st Floor
Nothing is known for certain about the original use of stone carvings such as this one, since the area in which they were made suffered severe social and political disruption in the 1500s. The crocodile most likely represents an ancestor, and the figure some form of communication between the living and the ancestor. The forelegs of the crocodile merge with the arms of the man, suggesting a deep link between the two. The carver of this figure probably belonged to a group of Sapi artists who also made objects for export, such as the ivory cup in this case.
CULTURE Sapi
MEDIUM Stone
  • Place Made: Sierra Leone
  • DATES 15th century or earlier
    DIMENSIONS 4 x 1 1/2 x 2 1/4 in. (10.2 x 3.8 x 5.7 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in African Storage Annex, East Gallery, 1st Floor
    ACCESSION NUMBER 2000.93.1
    CREDIT LINE Purchased with funds given by the Noah-Sadie K. Wachtel Foundation, Inc.
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Sapi. Figure of a Man Holding a Crocodile, 15th century or earlier. Stone, 4 x 1 1/2 x 2 1/4 in. (10.2 x 3.8 x 5.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased with funds given by the Noah-Sadie K. Wachtel Foundation, Inc., 2000.93.1. Creative Commons-BY
    IMAGE overall, 2000.93.1_SL3.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION The object is carved of stone depicting a human figure in a squatting or kneeling posture holding a crocodile in front with both hands. Facial features are atriculated in relief with horizontal ridge spanning from the corners of the mouth to just below the ears on both checks. The features are stylized with the head being comparatively large for the size of the body of the figure which makes the object top heavy when stood up on its base. The arms or sleeves of the figure as well as the back and tail of the crocodile are delineated with cross hatching marks. Other surfaces are undecorated. A hole of 3/4 inches deep and 1/4 inch diameter is drilled into the top of the head of the figure (male?). The hollow is not straight and the rim of the opening is unevenly beveled. Soil or burial accretion covers most of the surfaces. Where exposed, the stone is observed to have a crystal structure of interlocking, randomly oriented fibrous clusters of translucent pale gray and green color. The worn areas feel smooth and slippery. CONDITION: Overall surface wear; otherwise in good condition.
    RECORD COMPLETENESS Best (83%)
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