Chief's Caryatid Stool

This hour-glass shaped stool is supported by two caryatid figures who sit in a pose of lamentation—crouched with head in hands. Scarified patterned abstracted tears spill from their lower eyelids. Brass studs adorn the perimeter of the stool’s seat, base, and figures. Both figures wear strings of black, red and white beads around their necks.
Artist Unknown, African, Chokwe Peoples Angola
2nd half of 19th century
Stools like this rarely come out in public. At stately events, stools have animal skins over them, concealing the iconography from view. This stool is carved by a songi or master court sculptor. The power and public secrecy of the stool is such that songi carve royal seats in seclusion away from non-initiates and women. While sculpting, professional carvers strive for minimal design or utombo, which can capture the complexities of Chokwe cultural values.
Gift of Candis and Helmut Stern
Wednesday, August 5, 2020