Lot 3
  • 3

Bamileke Caryatid Stool, Grassfields Region, Cameroon

60,000 - 90,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • wood
  • Height: 18 in (46 cm)


Susan and Jerry Vogel, acquired in Douala
Hélène and Philippe Leloup, Paris and New York, acquired from the above 
Daniel and Marian Malcolm, Tenafly, New Jersey, acquired from the above on December 10, 1987


Center for African Art, New York, Wild Spirits, Strong Medicine: African Art and the Wilderness, May 10 - August 20, 1989; additional venues:
Block Art Gallery, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, September 21 - November 22, 1989
Lowe Art Museum, The University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, December 14, 1989 - January 28, 1990
The Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio, February 18 - April 30, 1990
The Worchester Art Museum, Worchester, Massachusetts, September 15 - December 1, 1990
Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, Statue University of New York, Purchase, Art in Cameroon: Sculptural Dialogues, April 23 - August 14, 2011


Martha G. Anderson and Christine Mullen Kreamer, Wild Spirits, Strong Medicine: African Art and the Wilderness, New York, 1989, p. 134, cat. 102
Marie-Thérèse Brincard, (ed.), Art in Cameroon: Sculptural Dialogues, Purchase, 2011, pp. 26 and 35, cat. 13
Heinrich Schweizer, Visions of Grace: 100 Masterpieces from the Collection of Daniel and Marian Malcolm, Milan, 2014, p. 134, cat. 51

Catalogue Note

Sculpture from the Grassfields region of Western and Northern Cameroon is highly esteemed for its expressive, energetic style.  This rich tradition was a key inspirational source for the twentieth century German Expressionists, who encountered these forms in the ethnographic collections formed during colonial rule.  Part of the German colonial empire until World War I, Cameroon and its art featured prominently in Berlin's museum of anthropology, today the Ethnologisches Museum, where it was studied by such young artists as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Erich Heckel of the Brücke movement.

In the Bamileke kingdoms, political and spiritual power was centralized in the person of the fon (king) who resided in a lavish palace situated in the center of his kingdom. Grand architecture demonstrated the welfare of the kingdom, and served as the focal point of political life, spiritual practice, and economic trade.  The facades of these palaces were adorned with opulent sculptural programs, and within the palace the fon kept a royal treasury of objects of regalia, symbolizing and affirming his authority.  Subjects were drawn from a pantheon of symbolic narratives relating to the royal dynasty and its powers.

The present stool from the Malcolm collection is a rare example of an object of court regalia from such a treasury, and features an anthro-zoomorphic figure, incorporating simian, human, and other animal characteristics including large forward-pointed ears.  Schweizer (2014: 135): notes that the exact identity of the figure supporting the Malcolm stool “is as yet undetermined.  The body is overall humanoid, with hands and feet, male primary sex organs, and a human nose.  However the head also bears unambiguously zoomorphic features including large pointy ears like those of a hyena and a snout-like mouth.”  Crouching under the disk-shaped seat of the stool, the figure is compressed like a spring under the weight of the sitter, and poised to burst upwards.   Such a position has been associated with the icon of a frog, a symbol of fertility (Schweizer loc. cit.; Anderson and Kraemer 1989: 135).  The master sculptor has charged this figure with a remarkable kinetic energy, creating a matrix of interrelated geometric forms centered upon a dramatically lengthened V-shape formed by the torso and thighs of the figure.  Knees and elbows frame the wildly animated facial features, with the whole composition forming a vigorous, vibrating image of strength, calling upon attributes of the natural world to affirm the greatness of its royal owner.