SPECIAL ADVISORY: The Yale University Art Gallery is free and open to the public from Tuesday through Sunday. Masks and COVID-19 vaccination (including booster, if eligible) are required.Review our Visitor Policies

African Art
PrevNext1 of 2
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
PrevNext2 of 2
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery

Kneeling Female Figure

possibly 18th century or earlier

Wood with oil

17 11/16 × 3 3/4 × 4 5/16 in. (45 × 9.5 × 11 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
This figure shows characteristics considered highly desirable in Dogon women: she kneels devoutly, her head modestly bowed and her eyes cast downward. Her youthful breasts and rounded belly allude to her potential for childbearing. Her fingers point toward the fertile earth. Dogon women assume this posture during funerals to show grief and to express gratitude to the deceased for a productive life.
On view
Dogon, Pre-Dogon, or Soninke

Collected in the Bandiagara region. Sotheby's New York, October 23, 1982, lot 262; Charles B. Benenson Collection, Greenwich, Conn, 1982–2004; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


Susan Vogel and Jerry L. Thompson, Closeup: Lessons in the Art of Seeing African Sculpture from an American Collection and the Horstmann Collection, exh. cat. (New York: Museum for African Art, 1990), 132-133, fig. 60.

“Sotheby’s New York advertisement,” African Arts 16, no. 2 (1983): 6, ill.

Bruce Museum, Three African Traditional: the Art of the Dogon, Fang and Songye, exh. cat. (Greenwich, CT: Bruce Museum, 1999), 11, fig. 10.

Bernard de Grunne, “Ancient Sculpture of the Inland Niger Delta and Its Influence on Dogon Art,” African Arts 21, no. 4 (1988): 54.

Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, Fine American Indian, African, and Oceanic Art, sale cat. (October 23, 1982), lot 262, ill.

“Acquisitions, July 1, 2005–June 30, 2006,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2006): 222, 225, ill.

Tom Phillips, Africa: The Art of a Continent (Munich: Prestel-Verlag, 2004), 504–505, fig. 6.15.

Helene Leloup, Statuaire Dogon/Dogon Statuary (Strasbourg, France: Daniele Amez, 1994), fig. 15.

Jean-Louis Sonnery and Gérald Berjonneau, Rediscovered Masterpieces of African Art (Boulonge, France: Olfert Dapper Foundation, 1987), 192.

Richard Barnes, “Objects of Desire,” Yale Alumni Magazine (September/October 2004): 221, ill.

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), 181, 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.