Baule Monkey Statue (Gbekre), Ivory Coast
- wood, pigment
- Height: 19 1/4 in (48.9 cm)
Merton D. Simpson, New York, acquired from the above (presumably inv. no. "3601")
Allan Stone, New York, acquired from the above in June 1981
Artists commissioned with the creation of sculptures used in the Mbra cult had to follow closely the instructions of the diviners who might have been told certain details about the figure's required physical appearance, posture, etc. by Mbra itself, often during a trance state or a dream. Vogel (1997: 238) notes: "Monkey figures share stylistic features with the men's sacred masks, and have some of the same qualities of secrecy and danger to women. They combine human and animal traits in such a way that it is nearly impossible to separate them, and they have the prominent teeth and boxy muzzle[... They] also receive sacrificial offerings directly on the wood sculpture, and are associated with the bush. Mbra monkey figures, for example are kept in the village, but 'fed' with sacrifices in the bush."
Depicting a cup-bearing anthropomorphized simian figure, the statue from the Allan Stone Collection is one of the great masterpieces of this genre. With its highly cubistic features it closely relates to the famous monkey statue previously in the collection of René Gaffé, Paris (sold at Christie’s, in association with Artus Associés, chambre Calmels Cohen, Paris, Collection René Gaffe, December 8, 2001, Lot 25; subsequently sold privately through Sotheby's, New York), identifying it as a work by the same artist and his workshop. The cup held between the hands was a receptacle for offerings such as eggs. The thick crusty sacrificial patina attests to long ritual use in situ.