Lot 4
  • 4

Dogon-N'duleri Standing Figure, Mali

10,000 - 15,000 USD
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  • wood
  • Height: 52 1/2 in (133 cm)


Presumably Merton D. Simpson, New York (inv. no. "3331"), acquired in March 1980
Allan Stone, New York

Catalogue Note

The sculpture of the Dogon people of Mali is one of the most iconic traditions in African art history. Following the exhibitions "Art of the Dogon" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (1988) and "Die Kunst der Dogon" at the Museum Rietberg in Zurich (1995), the most comprehensive exhibition on Dogon art, "DOGON", curated by Héléne Leloup, was shown in 2011 at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris. As Kate Ezra (1988: 15) notes: "The Dogon live in one of West Africa's most spectacular landscapes. Their home is the Bandiagara Escarpment, a row of cliffs stretching 125 miles from southwest to northeast, parallel to the Niger River. The steep cliffs, some of them almost two thousand feet high, are cut in massive blocks separated by natural gorges, their sharp-edged faces punctuated by caves. The cliffs make access to Dogon villages difficult, and even though the center of Dogon country is only about 90 miles from the ancient commercial city of [Djenne], visitors to Dogon country since the beginning of the twentieth century have stressed the sense of isolation and remoteness that pervades the cliffs. According to oral traditions, the Dogon chose to settle on the cliffs precisely because of their inaccessibility."

The most elegant and refined of all Dogon styles originated in the center and to the north of the Bandiagara Plateau in the region of the Ndule River, or n'duleri [ri = country of]. The N'duleri Style is closely linked with the art of the ancient Djenne empire and presumably is a direct result of the Songhay invasion in the 15thcentury and the ensuing Djennenke diaspora. For a historic account see Leloup (1994: 115 and 165). Leloup (1994: 165) notes: "Crafted with care, they represent tall and thin human beings, always with an elegant hairstyle which varies according [to] the workshops, and, above all, they have a characteristic trait, the close-set eyes [...]. This style, which seems to have reached its peak in the 18th century, is a condensation of the classical art of the north - realism and force - with a suppleness, an elegance, not found elsewhere, completely opposed to the [Dogon] sculpture on the southern cliff, which is very constructed, cubist, abstract."

The monumental statue from the Allan Stone Collection, of great age with a lyrically weathered surface, originally featured raised arms representing a prayer for rain. Stylistically it closely relates to another large-scale figure previously in the collections of Ralph Nash and Allan Mann (sold Christie's, Paris, June 14, 2011, lot 125) and may well be a work by the same artist. This figure was dated to the 17th-18th century and it seems plausible to assume a similar date for the Allan Stone statue.