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African Art

Male Figure

late 19th–early 20th century

Wood and metal

27 9/16 × 6 5/16 × 5 1/8 in. (70 × 16 × 13 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
This figure holds an upright spear with both hands and has ornamental earplugs inserted into its earlobes. Its lower body and legs originally would have been wrapped with cloth. Such figures commemorated high-ranking ancestors whose spirits helped the living secure the fertility of the land and sufficient rain, or protected them from harm. This figure represents a deceased important chief and belonged to the incumbent leader, for whom it served as the primary means to access the ancestral spirit.
19th–20th century

Alain Dufour, Paris, about 1970; Lucien Van de Velde, Antwerp, about 1977. Possibly Khepri van Rijn, Amsterdam. Possibly Ralph Nash. Sotheby's, New York, November 29-30, 1984. Helene and Philippe Leloup, New York and Paris, November 29, 1984. Charles B. Benenson Collection, Greenwich, Conn, 1984–2004; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


Sotheby’s, New York, Important Tribal Art, African, and Oceanic Art, Including the Collection of Mrs. Wilfredo Lam, sale cat. (November 29–30, 1984), lot 287, ill.

Frederick John Lamp, “Charles Benenson and His Legacy of African Art to Yale,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2004): 26, ill.

“Acquisitions, July 1, 2005–June 30, 2006,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2006): 222.

Frederick John Lamp, Amanda Maples, and Laura M. Smalligan, Accumulating Histories: African Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2012), 111, ill.

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.