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Unknown Maker
Seated Male Figure
12th-17th century

The third-longest river in Africa, the Niger flows from the highlands of Guinea through Mali, the Republic of Niger, Benin and Nigeria to the Gulf of Guinea in the south Atlantic. In south-central Mali, it enters the Inland Delta region, a huge area of creeks and lakes that is subject to annual flooding. There, terracotta sculptures like this work have been found, many of them near the ancient city of Djenne; thus they are often described as ¿Djenne-style.¿

Little is known about the people who created this sculpture of a seated male figure, although we do know that Djenne flourished as a crossroads of international trade from the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries. The facial features are faint but armbands are visible on each forearm, as is a strap over his right shoulder attached to a quiver on his back, an elongated trunk, a protruding navel and long arms that merge with his thighs. The oldest work in the Lang collection, and one of the few made from clay rather than wood, its purpose may be unknown, but it represents an important connection with one of sub-Saharan Africa¿s most important early urban centres.

 
Unknown Maker
Inland Niger Delta peoples
Seated Male Figure
12th-17th century
terracotta
height / width / depth: 41.00 x 19.50 x 19.50 cm; 16.14 x 7.68 x 7.68 in.
Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, 1984
M84-098

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