Fine Dogon/Bamana Female Figure, Mali
height 30 1/2in (77.5cm)
Robert Dupperier, Paris, France
Jack Naimann, New York 1978
Private Collection, New York
According to Barley (Africa: Art of a Continent, 1995: p. 503), "Dogon statuary is among the most discussed and least understood in Africa...
...The statues themselves vary enormously in size, form and surface patination. This is not to say that art critics have not sought to establish rigorous styles and historical watersheds, but the value of such attempts is at best to impose a somewhat arbitrary order on a mass of ill-digested data so that "transitional forms" abound. It remains the case that we have very little reliable information on what Dogon statuary was used for and by whom, a fact that has certainly entered into the way in which it has been used to bolster arguments for the universality of art. Interpretations home in on "ancestral" figures and those involved in rainmaking.'
The present sculpture shares some features of the neighboring Bamana culture but is most likely Dogon, she stands firmly on a circular base with legs bent at the knees, supporting a long torso with downward pointing breasts decorated with crisscross scarification, the arms extending downward and resting on the knees; the columnar neck extending from the horizontal, broad shoulders and supporting the domed head delicately carved with a contemplative facial expression; light and dark-brown patina with encrustations.