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Figure of a Man Riding an Elephant

African Art

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Figure of a Man Riding an Elephant

Artwork Details

Artist/Maker

Sapi Artist
Sierra Leone

Date

sixteenth century or earlier

Medium

Soapstone

Accession #

2014.392

Dimensions

11 3/4 inches

Location

On View - Stent Family Wing, Skyway, Gallery 401

Description

This extraordinary sculpture, now fragmentary, presents an intentionally disproportionate image of a large, broad-shouldered man, with a carefully manicured beard, riding a tiny elephant. Their inter-locking forms suggest a mutual interdependence. The shapes of their ears echo one another. The rider grasps the elephant’s ear, a significant gesture since elephants hear sounds inaudible to humans. Nine heads, likely representing vanquished enemies, ring the base along with as a small, prostrate body, beneath the elephant’s foot. Stone carvings such as this one, dating to before the arrival of Europeans in 1463, have been found in the earth in Sierra Leone and Liberia. They are believed to have been created by populations ancestral to the Sherbro people.

Credit

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

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