Display figure

A poised, naturalistic male figure sits on a stool, holding an egg in his right hand, his left hand resting on his left knee. The head is round, almost egg-shaped, with a high, sloping forehead rising from pronounced eyebrows. The eyes are almond-shped, the nost long and slender, the mouth a small straight line. The neck is long and ringed. Its surface is smooth, and carefully finished, golden brown in color, though worn or mottled in places.
Artist Unknown, African, Osei Bonsu, Asante (Akan) peoples Ghana
c. 1950
Seated on a royal stool--considered the soul of the Asante people--with an egg in his hand, this figure depicts a proverb that cautions the powerful to be firm but prudent in their rule: “To be a ruler is like holding an egg in the hand; if it is pressed too hard it breaks, but if not held tightly enough it may slip and smash on the ground.” A popular motif of the Asante court, it was often used to decorate the tops of linguist staffs, which were emblems of authority used by the ruler’s spokesmen during public ceremonies. However, this particular figure--carved by the acclaimed artist Osei Bonsu--is what Bonsu himself called a “parlor piece,” that is, a genre of work commissioned by local Asante and expatriate elites to decorate their homes.
Gift of Margaret H. and Albert J. Coudron
Saturday, August 13, 2022