Male Figure


Djenné Artist, Mali


Thirteenth–fifteenth century




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Purchase with funds from the Fred and Rita Richman Special Initiatives Endowment Fund for African Art

Accession #


On View

On View - Stent Family Wing, Skyway, Gallery 410

This powerfully expressive, elegant figure, with its face tilted toward the heavens, comes from the region of the ancient city of Djenne, in Mali, West Africa. Djenne is considered the most ancient city in sub-Saharan Africa, founded more than 2,000 years ago. Today the entire city, which includes the Great Mosque, whose foundations date to the thirteenth century, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This sculpture is closely related to a set of large, stylistically similar terracotta figures. Now a fragment, it may once have consisted of a full figure, seated and kneeling in prayer or riding a horse. As evidenced by thermoluminescence tests completed in 1988, it was created between ca. 1300 and 1500, when the medieval Empire of Mali encompassed much of what is now West Africa, from Mali to the coast of Senegal. Both this sculpture and the Great Mosque are made of earth—red, like Georgia’s soil.