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African Art
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Female Figure

20th century

Wood and pigment

53 × 12 1/2 × 10 1/2 in. (134.62 × 31.75 × 26.67 cm)
From the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Mark Neitlich, Class of 1947. Donated in memory of their son, David, who died at 18
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:

Female figure was accessioned as ‘Igbo, Female shrine figure.’ A catalogue note in the accession file for the object by Yale History of Art Professor Robert Farris Thompson, and the Gallery's African Art Specialist in 1973, indicates the ownership history of the object “stems from Nigerian civil war and gathering up of art from destroyed Igbo villages.” (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 Female 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.