African Art
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Male Figure

19th–20th century


41 × 7 × 5 1/2 in. (104.14 × 17.78 × 13.97 cm)
From the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Mark Neitlich, Class of 1947. Donated in the memory of their son, David, who died at 18
19th–20th century

Possibly acquired in Nigeria, during the Biafran war, 1967–1970 [see note 1]; Mr. Mark W. Neitlich (b.1926) and Mrs. Eleanor Neitlich, Oyster Bay, New York; donated to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 1972

Note 1:

Male Figure was accessioned as ‘Funerary Ancestor Figure, Oron,’ and at the same time as YUAG 1972.121.3, Female Figure. A catalogue note in Female Figure’s accession file suggests the two objects have a shared history. (January 17, 1973)


The Nigerian Civil War, or Biafran War, was a civil war in Nigeria fought between the Nigerian government, and the successionist state of Biafra, 1967–1970. Substantial looting of shrines by combatants took place and many objects were moved across the border into Cameroon, from where they were bought by traders and shipped to the Western art-market as commodities; during and after this period local Igbo traders who supplied regional dealers outside Nigeria were also known to have extracted pieces from their usage contexts in exchange for cash. See Sidney Littlefield Kasfir, African Art and the Colonial Encounter, Indiana University Press, 2007, p. 242, 247

The acquisition of Male Figure is at present unconfirmed. Research into its ownership history remains ongoing.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.