Ex collection Emile Storrer, Zurich
Ex collection J.J. Klejman, New York
Ex private American collection
Ex collection Robert and Lillian Montalto Bohlen, Michigan
Ex private collection, California
Himmelheber, Hans. Negerkunst und Negerkunstler. Braunschweig: Klinckhardt & Biermann, 1960. P.76, fig. 62
This sculpture is a beautiful and dynamic example of the equestrian theme in Malian art. The horse springs forward while the noble rider lifts his right hand holding a spear (now missing) ready to attack. Carved in the classic n’duleri style, this sculpture is close to the example in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art (accession number 1979.206.85). There are only a handful of equestrian figures known in public and private collections.
The theme of horse and rider is found throughout the art of the Western Sudan even though horses are rare south of the Sahara. Horsemen were warriors, invaders and emissaries of distant kingdoms. In these equestrian figures, the diminutive scale of the horse relative to its rider indicates a type of small West African pony that was described by Arab visitors to Sahelian courts. Ownership of a horse indicates wealth and position. This idea along with the Dogon creation story of Nommo, a supernatural being who was transformed into a horse in order to carry the ark of the eight founding ancestors to earth, lends power and relevance to the equestrian figure. Riding the horse is the spiritual leader or Hogon, of the Dogon community. The Hogon’s leadership role extends beyond the physical realm into the supernatural.
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