African Art
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Chief’s Chair

late 19th–early 20th century

Wood and hide

26 3/16 x 12 3/16 x 12 5/8 in. (66.5 x 31 x 32 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
2006.51.74
Ornate chairs were a privilege of chiefs in many African societies. The chairs underscored the chief’s authority and were a status symbol as well as a token of the highest spiritual power. Designed after European models and introduced several centuries ago in the wake of encounters with Portuguese traders, these high-back chairs were widely distributed during the nineteenth century. Usually they were decorated with symbolic carvings of genre scenes or mythological figures. The top center of the backrest of this chair features a head with a crown known as chipenya mutwe, which is worn by Chihongo mask performers and is a symbol of courtly wealth and power.
Culture: 
Chokwe
Period: 
19th–20th century
Classification: 
Furniture
Geography: 
Made in Central Africa, Angola
Status: 
On view
Provenance: 

Merton Simpson, New York, to Oct. 21, 1976; Charles B. Benenson Collection, Greenwich, Conn, 1976–2004;Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.

Bibliography: 

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

Boris Wastiau, “A Piece of Chokwe Court Art: A Sceptre from Angola,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2005): 74–75, fig. 7.

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

“Acquisitions, July 1, 2006–June 30, 2007,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2007): 4, ill.

Frederick John Lamp, Accumulating Histories: African Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2012), 79, 113, fig. 23.

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.