Baule Female Figure, Ivory Coast
Dark brown patinated wood
H: 60 cm (23,6″), W: 12 cm (4,7″)
Baule figures can be among the most elegant and designed pieces in Africa. Many show careful execution of face, coiffure and scarification details, with refined forms but no loss of expressiveness and power. The quiet, dignified figures embody spirits from the other world. They functioned as the home of a spirit to whom sacrifices were made and had to be placated with care. In ritual performances, the spirit would come out to possess the diviner, causing a trance. The display of the figures would enhance and support the ensuing dance.
This fine and old Baule is an exceptionally striking and delicate example of a female figure reflecting the perfect image of a Baule figure. The face expression, head size and shape, body balance, the perfect hairstyle and scarification on the neck, front and back is outstandingly beautiful cut. Note the slightly bent legs, elegantly shaped they become the powerful pillars carrying the figure.
Since the first publication of several Baule sculptures in Carl Einstein’s seminal book Negerplastik in 1915 (see plates 53-57, 60, 89, and 93-95), Baule art has been at the core of Western appreciation of African art. The Baule style is seen as one of the canonic African art traditions and its art historical significance is rivaled only by few other cultures such as the Fang (Gabon), Senufo (Ivory Coast), Kongo (Western DRC) or Luba/Hemba (Eastern DRC).
Provenance: Old and respected private Belgian collection; Count Simon du Chastel de la Howarderie, Brussels. (1930- 2014). Son of Henri Count du Chastel de la Howarderie (1894-1982), General Major, Arbitration Officer of King Albert I, Military Attaché. Married to Countess Marie-Antoinette de Bousies (1894-1983). The figure was ccollected in situ in the years before 1960s.
Literature: ‘African Art Western Eyes’ by Susan M. Vogel (Yale)
‘The Tribal Arts of Africa’ by Jean-Baptiste Bacquart.