Western Africa, Côte d'Ivoire, Colonial Period, Baule (Baoule) people, ca. 1930 CE. An exquisite carved and painted standing wooden female figure created by a Baule artisan from the Ivory Coast. The figure boasts a classic form, standing nude on delineated muscular legs and broad feet atop an integral circular plinth, her arms bent to a slight distended abdomen with protective hands guarding her womb. Perky breasts and sloping shoulders form a gentle maternal stature, and a ribbed neck supports a finely-modeled head. Her face exhibits a serene visage comprised of downturned eyes and closed lips, with an elaborate plaited, black coiffure providing a welcome complementarity to an otherwise crimson-hued body. Skillfully-painted facial details and stylized fingers and toes imbue this figure with a sense of personality, perhaps similar to the ancestor it is meant to represent. Size: 15.375" H (39.1 cm).
Figures of this form are known as "Blolo Bla" - an ancestral spirit wife sculpture that would be placed in the home, looked after and attentively cared for, as such special figures are believed to act as a medium to the spirit world. Examples like this are also referred to as "Dream Lovers," because they are believed to visit the living in their dreams and may serve as an Oracle who can predict the future or act as a dream lover.
A similar example sold at Sotheby's May 14, 2004 New York auction (Lot 49) for $24,000 (hammer price with buyer's premium): http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2004/african-oceanic-and-pre-columbian-art-n07996/lot.49.html
Provenance: private New York, New York, USA collection
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Surface wear commensurate with age, wear and fading to pigmentation in high-point areas, with small chips to tips of breasts, legs, ears, and body. Minor erosion to base and posterior, stable hairline fissures to base, foot, and body, otherwise excellent. Vibrant pigmentation with wonderful earthen and mineral deposits throughout.