Lot 9
  • 9

Baule Shrine Figure, Ivory Coast

6,000 - 9,000 USD
11,250 USD
bidding is closed


  • Wood, cloth, and bone
  • Height: 16 7/8 in (42.9 cm)


Allan Stone, New York

Catalogue Note

The offered lot belongs to the very rare corpus of Baule composite-figures incorporating a skull which were created for the cult of Mbra. Vogel (1997: 224) explains: "A man, woman, or child may be possessed by either of two kinds of powers: bush spirits, called asye usu, of which great numbers wander about in nature [...]; and Mbra, an ancient [god] which can remain attached to certain families over generations. Both supernatural powers send their human partners into trance states [...] and there are similar beliefs about both. At least one substantial figure sculpture (usually more) should be created as an abode for the spirit or god [...]. Only certain families have Mbra, having acquired it in past generations, and it lacks the close connection with the bush that asye usu have. Fewer persons are contacted by Mbra than by the multitude of bush spirits [...]."

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 the god Mbra itself, often during a trance state or a dream. In her discussion of a closely related Baule Mbra figure from the collection of Marceau Rivière, also incorporating an animal skull, Vogel (loc. cit.) notes: "Horrific Baule objects, apparently often for Mbra, often incorporate actual skulls into wooden sculptures as here. In the Baule system, this type of object is potent and the least likely to be publicly displayed."