Baule Seated Female Figure, Ivory Coast
Black patinated wood, glass-pearls
H: 43,5 cm (17,1″), W: 9 cm (3,5″), D: 15 cm (5,9″)
This powerful and almost majestic female figure sitting on a stool comes from the Dessau collection in France. The figure is a stunning example of Baule culture’s superior carvings.
Every detail, her unusual artistic hairstyle, the classic appearance with her hands on the side of her stomach, the fine protruding scarification in her face, on her front, back and neck and the elegant pearl necklace of glass beads completes the beauty of the figure.
Baule figures are beautifully carved with a certain naturalism and fall into two categories, the first represents spirits of the wild (asie usu) that live in the bush beyond village boundaries and the second are male and female figures that represent ‘spirit world’ spouses for their owners. This piece belongs to the second category.
Baule people believe that people are born into the world already married. This spirit spouse has great influence, for good and evil, over life on earth. After earthly marriage, one night of the week is kept for sleeping with the spirit spouse, and earthly spouses may not sleep together. The carvings are kept very private, and are rarely seen. ‘Other world spouses’, are kept in personal shrines where offerings are made to them and where they are close by their real world spouse. The figures reflect Baule ideals of beauty and aesthetics as the female (blolo bla) and male (blolo bian) figures exhibit youthful, well-formed bodies and with much attention to details of hair and scarification as well as being dressed in what is considered fashionable and in recent times in European style clothing.
Baule figurative statuary is some of the best known and most collected.
Age: Early to mid 20th Century.
Provenance: The Dessau Collection, France
P. L. Ravenhill: Baule Statuary Art: Meaning and Modernization, Institute for the Study of Human Issues, Working Paper 5 (Philadelphia, 1980)S. M. Vogel: Beauty in the Eyes of the Baule: Aesthetics and Cultural Values, Institute for the Study of Human Issues, Working Paper 6 (Philadelphia,1980)S. M. Vogel, Baule, African Art, Western Eyes. 1997.