standing nude female figure, in dark wood; geometric linear pattern carved on torso, back and chest; small, nude child hanging on back of the figure

Maternity figure, first quarter 20th century

expand_more

Wood, metalexpand_more

Gift of Debrah and Harris Feinnexpand_more  2019.126

2019 Accession Highlight

Dan people call this type of figure mü le, or "wooden person." It is one of the few genres in African art that often portrays actual persons, making it a kind of portrait, albeit in idealized form. The renowned master carver Zlan, who died in 1960, once reminisced about one of his mü le: "I went to a chief of the Dan, named Bu, in Tuba. I carved a figure with a child on the back. For it he gave me a sheep, a goat, and a large garment." Although not carved by Zlan himself but most likely by one of his pupils, this maternity figure was made as a prestige object for a chief or wealthy patron. It shows an idealized feminine beauty and honors the power of women to bear and rear children.

Zoom in on the left to the detail you'd like to save. Click 'Save detail' and wait until the image updates. Right click the image to 'save image as' or copy link, or click the image to open in a new tab.

standing nude female figure, in dark wood; geometric linear pattern carved on torso, back and chest; small, nude child hanging on back of the figure