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HOME : African & Tribal Art : Dan Sculptures : Dan Sculpture of a Woman
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Dan Sculpture of a Woman - PF.6066
Origin: Liberia
Circa: 20 th Century AD
Dimensions: 8.75" (22.2cm) high
Collection: African
Medium: Brass

Location: United States
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Like the gold weights of the Akan peoples and the heddle pulleys of the Baule and Senufo tribes, the bronze figures of the Dan are considered to be the exceptional case in the corpus of African art: art objects created for art’s sake. Void of any religious significance or ceremonial function, these realistically crafted sculptures were used by chieftains as purely decorative objects. The chieftain took pleasure in them as they are, appreciating the extraordinary beauty of the objects and the inherent skills of the craftsmanship.

This sculpture of a woman bears the stylistic signatures of Dan figurative art including the bulbous limbs, planar feet and hands, and the almond-shaped eyes. Her head is crowned by an elaborate coiffure featuring three individual braids that fall along the back of her head and merge into one. Such hairstyles imply an elite status when one considers both employing the other person who must style the hair and the time-consuming labor involved in braiding, time that would otherwise be spent weaving or preparing food. The decorative bands she wears just above her knees and her beaded anklets further imply her wealth and rank in society, as does her sophisticated patterned scarification seen across her stomach. Her fertility is alluded to in the form of her large sagging breasts and her exposed genitalia. Such a splendid masterpiece of sculpture needs no ceremonial or religious purpose to achieve its power. The force of this artwork is the art itself and the hand of the sculptor. Originally, this work was coveted as an object of beauty by chieftains of the Dan tribe. Today, we appreciate this same striking beauty much as the chieftains would have almost a century ago. - (PF.6066)


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