Blolo bian figure (spirit husband)
Blolo Bla = spirit wife
Among the Baule peoples of Côte d'Ivoire, human experience evolves out of and remains inextricably linked to the
ancestral spirit world, or blolo (roughly, "the village of truth"), which controls and determines the fate of the living.
Divination figures such as these serve as links to the spirit world and are a critical element in a Baule diviner's
professional practice. Baule diviners are individuals who have been selected by spirits, or asye usu, as mediums
through which to communicate important insights into the human condition. The sculptures are often described as the
asye usu's "stool," a figurative resting point for the spirits. Divination figures represent idealized male or female figures
in their prime, which are considered by the asye usu as desirable forms to inhabit, and so are used to draw the unruly
spirits out of their home in the bush and into the village.
This male figure most likely represents a sculpture made for a spirit husband, Blolo bian. According to Vogel, 'these
figures represent an ideal of man or womanhood, embodying not only physical perfection, but social, moral and
intellectual achievement. Spirit spouse sculptures can be seen as a kind of opposite sex alter ego and are a fascinating
case of the use of art in Africa for individual psychological relief. The Baule are one of a number of African groups who
believe that before birth, human beings all had Blolo bla (spirit wife) and Blolo bian (spirit husband) spouses in the other
world who can influence their lives. Baule artists and their nearby neighbors seem to be the only artists in Africa who
traditionally carved figural representations of spirit spouses'
The more elaborate the ornamental and decorative features of an individual work, the more time has been invested in
its execution by the sculptor, and the greater the expense to its owner. The culmination of such efforts hopefully results
in the creation of a sculpture that is most attractive to the asye usu. When used by Baule diviners, such works not only
flatter the asye usu but also add to the theatrical spectacle of a public pronouncement of a divinatory revelation. Their
aesthetic quality dazzles potential clients with the caliber and sophistication of the instruments associated with a diviner.
The beauty of a figure advertises its owner's success as an intermediary with the spirit world. Consequently, diviners
prosper by commissioning superlative figures as divinatory instruments. Ownership of extraordinary objects thus directly
affects a diviner's professional standing and enhances public perception of his or her efficacy.
Sources: A History of Art in Africa / Africa - The Art of a Continent
|I currently do not have a Blolo bian or Blolo Bla figure in my collection.
|Other examples and additional information
|Sotheby's May 2004
PROPERTY FROM A NEW YORK PRIVATE COLLECTION
A FINE BAULE MALE AND FEMALE PAIR
Estimate 7,000—10,000 USD
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 16,800 USD
heights 16 1/2 in. and 14in. 42cm and 35.5cm
each of similar form, the elongated gently tapered torsos with raised scarification, framed by arms to the sides
with elegant, long hands resting on the abdomen, the faces jutting forward with distinctive sensitively carved
features including pouting mouths and large almond-shaped eyes, each wearing back-swept striated coiffures
pendant at the back; medium brown patina with areas of kaolin.
Pace Gallery, New York, 1976
LITERATURE AND REFERENCES
Siroto, African Spirit Images and Identities, 1976: 77, figure 158 and 159, catalogue for the exhibition, Pace
Gallery, New York, April 24-May 29, 1976
According to Vogel, in her description of another Baule male and female pair created for trance diviners: they
depict 'physical and moral ideals [within Baule society]: they are upstanding, composed and their eyes show
an intelligent and respectful presence in society. ...Their refined scarifications demonstrate their desire to
please; their clean, healthy skin and rounded muscles show that they can work successfully, producing food
and crafting the things needed in society' (1997: 236).
Sotheby's November 2002
Property from an English Collector
A FINE BAULE PAIR, PROBABLY SAKASSOU REGION
Estimate 10,000—15,000 USD
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 7,170 USD
height 14 1/4in. 36.2cm
the standing male and female, each of similar form, with muscular legs and full hips leading to a cylindrical
torso with hands resting to the sides, the elongated necks decorated with elaborate raised scarification, the
protruding oval mask-like facial planes with stylized features, and wearing backswept coiffures with pendant
braids, finials at the crown covered with cloth; varied and highly encrusted greyish brown patina.
Probably made for a trance diviner, as indicated by the layered and encrusted patina as well as the power
bundles at the crown, these figures represent klo sran, or civilized people of the village (as opposed to the
wild bush spirits). Opposite sex doubling is a theme within Baule art. Therefore, this pair could represent one
person with manifestations of both male and female characteristics as opposed to a complementary individual
(Vogel 1997: 168).
|Sotheby's Paris 2004
TRÈS BELLE STATUE FÉMININE,
BAULÉ, CÔTE D'IVOIRE
A FINE BAULE FEMALE FIGURE,
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's
Premium: 55,200 EUR
|Christie's - Paris
Art Africain et Océanien
Auction Date : Jun 7, 2005
Lot 182 : STATUETTE BAOULE
Debout, les jambes légèrement fléchies, les bras séparés du corps avec les mains au
niveau des hanches, des panneaux rectangulaires de kéloides sculptés en relief sur le
torse, l'abdomen, le dos et le cou, le visage à la bouche ovale montrant les dents, la
barbe tressée formant une sphère, avec une coiffe centrale en crête finement incisée,
des perles autour d'une cheville. Patine sombre, étiquette ancienne.
Hauteur: 36 cm.
Estimate: € 8,000 - € 12,000
Price Realized: $ 8,675 ( € 7,200)
Frank Crowninshield, New York
Russell B. Aitken, New York
The Brooklyn Museum, 1954, no.45
Masterpieces of African Art, Brooklyn, 1954, no.45 (n'est pas illustré).
APPARTENANT A DIVERS AMATEURS
Voir De Heusch, L. et al., Utotombo, L'Art d'Afrique noire dans les collections privées
belges, Bruxelles, 1988, no.68, pour la représentation d'une pièce pratiquement
identique réalisée par le même artiste.
|Christie's - Paris
Art Africain et Océanien
Auction Date : Jun 7, 2005
Représentant un homme assis sur un tabouret rectangulaire à deux étages, les mains
et les pieds aux longs doigts finement sculptés reposant sur les genoux, le torse
allongé aux épaules arrondies, le visage ovale aux yeux globuleux, le nez droit, la
bouche aux lèvres ourlées et aux oreilles en relief, la coiffure composée de très fines
tresses nouées sur le sommet du crâne et se terminant par une petite projection dans
le cou. Des rangées de kéloides ornent les tempes, les joues, entre les yeux, les
commissures des lèvres et le cou sous forme de fines rangées verticales, les avant
bras avec de larges bracelets en relief. Patine noire et brillante.
Hauteur: 42.5 cm.
Estimate:€ 8,000 - € 12,000
Price Realized: $ 15,181 (€ 12,600)
Alfred Meyer (1901-1967), artiste suisse, suiveur de Charles Despiau, Paris. Donné
par l'artiste à Monsieur et Madame Guggenheim le 14 janvier 1963.
PROVENANT DE LA FONDATION GEORG AND JOSI GUGGENHEIM, ZURICH. VENDU
AU PROFIT D'UNE ASSOCIATION CARITATIVE.
|Sotheby's - Paris
Paolo Morigi collection : Important African Art
Auction Date : Jun 6, 2005
Lot 112 : f - STATUE DE FEMME ASSISE, BAULÉ, CÔTE D'IVOIRE [A BAULE SEATED
FEMALE FIGURE, IVORY COAST]
sculptée dans une position classique : assise sur un tabouret de type akan, bras
plaqués le long du corps, les mains aux doigts écartés posées de part et d'autre de
l'abdomen et encadrant un nombril saillant. La tête, projetée en avant, montre un
visage aux traits équilibrés, les yeux mi-clos, la bouche entrouverte aux commissures
prolongées par un motif de triples scarifications en patte d'oie. Très belle finesse dans
la gravure des cheveux et des scarifications. Patine brun nuancée, brillante sur le
visage, croûteuse sur le bas du corps, rehaussée de kaolin sur le siège. Elle porte un
pagne en tissu, un collier et une ceinture boama à en perles de verre, à rangs
Condition Note: Fente sur le côté de la base.
Collectée sur le terrain vers 1964-65
Ancienne collection M. Fantin, Bologne
La position assise et la patine croûteuse sur la partie inférieure indiquent qu'il s'agit
vraisemblablement d'une statue d'asie usu, représentation dictée par le devin d'un
"génie de la brousse" sous la forme d'un bel humain.
haut. 43 cm
Estimate:€ 20,000 - € 27,000
Price Realized: $ 23,133
|Sotheby's - Paris
Paolo Morigi collection : Important African Art
Auction Date : Jun 6, 2005
Lot 90 : f - EXCEPTIONNELLE STATUE, BAULÉ, CÔTE D'IVOIRE A magnificent Baule
male figure, Ivory Coast
représentant un homme assis sur un tabouret de type Akan, tenant de ses deux mains
l'extrémité de sa barbe tressée. L'homme est sculpté dans une position hiératique : le
corps droit, le cou haut, la tête dans son prolongement, le visage projeté au premier
plan, ce dernier s'étirant jusqu'aux mains. La composition repose sur une succession
d'angles marqués, formés par la pliure des membres, la cambrure du dos, l'agencement
des nattes projetées en haut relief et le dessin du visage. A l'apparente rigidité du
traitement s'opposent les courbes tendues offertes de profil et le traitement délicat des
modelés. Le visage offre des traits naturalistes : sourcils arqués, yeux ouverts, nez aux
ailes dessinées, bouche en huit aux lèvres ourlées. Extrême finesse et régularité dans la
gravure des scarifications, de la barbe et de la chevelure à la coiffure complexe, ornée
sur le devant de trois cornes torsadées. Très belle patine sombre, légèrement
croûteuse. Au dos est inscrit à l'encre blanche le numéro d'inventaire dans la collection
Keller : G.F.K. 150.
Ancienne collection Georges de Miré
Etude Bellier, experts Ratton et Carré, Paris, le 16 décembre 1931, n° 24, pl. II
Hôtel Drouot, Paris, le 31 mai 1972, n° 97, pl. VII
Ancienne collection G.F. Keller (GFK 150)
LITERATURE AND REFERENCES
Locke, 1968 : p. 209
Le peintre Georges de Miré a fait partie, dans les premières décennies du XXe siècle,
des premiers collectionneurs d'art africain. Sa collection a été en partie présentée en
1923, lors de l'exposition Art Indigène des Colonies Françaises, au Pavillon de Marsan
(Paris), aux côtés de celles des artistes André Lhote, Burty Havilland, des écrivains Jean
Giraudoux et Félix Fénéon, des marchands et collectionneurs Paul Guillaume, Bela Hein,
Anthony Morris and Jean Hessel. Cette exposition a été la première manifestation
d'envergure à Paris dédiée à l'art africain, remportant un immense succès.
La collection Georges de Miré a été vendue à l'hôtel Drouot, le 16 décembre 1931 avec
pour experts Charles Ratton et Louis Carré. Plusieurs de ces pièces sont considérées
comme "des chefs-d'oeuvre absolus" (Paudrat in Rubin, 1984: vol. I, 163), notamment la
statue Fang acquise par Epstein, aujourd'hui conservée au musée Dapper, Paris
(Dapper, 1997 : 97-100), et la statue Dogon acquise par Ratton et Carré, puis par
Epstein, également conservée au musée Dapper (Dapper, 1994 : 82). Georges Henri
Rivière, qui signa l'introduction du catalogue de vente confessa en conclusion "Veut-on
connaître le fond de mes pensées?... Une sorte de dépit que le Trocadéro [Musée
ethnographique du Trocadéro, rebaptisé en 1938 Musée de l'Homme] ne soit pas
encore assez riche pour s'offrir en bloc cette magnifique collection" (Rivière, 1931 : III).
Cette statue Baulé fait partie des très belles pièces de la collection Georges de Miré.
Elle se distingue en particulier par la manière dont l'artiste a magnifié tous les critères de
beauté de la statuaire Baulé : hiératisme et équilibre de la pose, exceptionnelle tension
des lignes, allongement du cou, agencement de la coiffure, finesse des modelés et
extrême délicatesse de la gravure.
A magnificent Baule male figure, Ivory Coast
In the first years of the twentieth century the painter Georges de Miré was one of the
very first collectors of African art. Part of his collection was presented in and exhibition in
1923, Indigenous Art of the French Colonies, at the Pavillon de Marsan in Paris. Included
in the exhibition were selections from the collections of André Lhote, Burty Havilland, the
writers Jean Giraudoux and Félix Fénéon, and the dealers and collectors Paul
Guillaume, Bela Hein, Anthony Morris and Jean Hessel. This exhibition was the first idea
of the scale of interest in African art in Paris, and was an immense success.
The Georges de Miré collection was sold at the Hotel Drouot on December 16, 1931,
with experts Charles Ratton and Louis Carré. The majority of pieces were considered
'absolute masterpieces' (Paudrat in Rubin, 1984: vol. I, 163). Of particular note is the
Fang figure, acquired by Jacob Epstein, today in the Dapper Museum, Paris (Dapper,
1997: 97-100), and the Dogon figure, acquired by Ratton and Carré, and later by Jacob
Epstein, also in the Dapper Museum (Dapper, 1994: 82). Georges Henri Rivière, who
wrote the introduction to the auction catalog, concluded, ' Would you like to know the
depth of my thoughts...A disappointment that the Trocadero (The Ethnographic Museum
of the Trocodero, renamed The Musée de L'Homme in 1938) was not rich enough to
acquire this magnificent collection en masse' (Rivière: 1931, III).
The Morigi Baule figure is one of the very beautiful objects from Georges de Miré
collection. The figure is unusual for the manner in which this artist has magnified the
criteria the Baule use in judging beauty in a sculpture: the balance of the pose, the
exceptional tension of the lines, the exaggerated elongation of the neck, and the great
detail in the precisely carved coiffure as well as the overall refinement and delicacy in the
haut. 42 cm
16 1/2 in
Estimate:€ 300,000 - € 350,000
|Christie's - Paris
Art Africain, Océanien et Précolombien
Auction Date : Dec 8, 2004
Lot 110 : PAIRE DE STATUETTES BAOULE
|Baule peoples; Côte d'Ivoire
Wood, pigment, beads, iron; H. 21 13/16 in. (male), 20 2/3 in. (female)
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1969 (1978.412.390-.391)
Among the Baule peoples of Côte d'Ivoire, human experience evolves out of and remains inextricably linked to the ancestral spirit
world, or blolo (roughly, "the village of truth"), which controls and determines the fate of the living. Divination figures such as these
serve as links to the spirit world and are a critical element in a Baule diviner's professional practice. Baule diviners are individuals
who have been selected by spirits, or asye usu, as mediums through which to communicate important insights into the human
condition. The sculptures are often described as the asye usu's "stool," a figurative resting point for the spirits. Divination figures
represent idealized male or female figures in their prime, which are considered by the asye usu as desirable forms to inhabit, and so
are used to draw the unruly spirits out of their home in the bush and into the village.
The elegant and refined couple shown here is especially successful in capturing such an ideal. The figures are slender, with long
torsos and muscular legs that are slightly flexed. With their eyes closed and hands resting on their abdomens, both figures reflect
the same tranquil meditative attitude of contemplation. They are symmetrical and fluid in design, and their facial features are
described with precision and great attention to detail. The recessed eye sockets are accentuated with a layer of white kaolin,
reflecting the practice of diviners who analogously apply kaolin to their own eyes and lips, enabling them to see and hear the spirits
while in a trance state. Bodily adornments on both figures include beaded strands around the neck, hips, and ankles, and are
particularly significant because they function to confer the culturally desirable attributes of civilization on the wild and disruptive asye
usu. The female figure is slightly smaller in size, a characteristic accentuated by the male's conical coiffure. Both figures' feet rest on
circular bases and are covered with an encrustation of sacrificial matter. Great care has been exercised to apply the sacrificial
offerings to the feet of the figure only, so that its overall aesthetic refinement is not marred.
The more elaborate the ornamental and decorative features of an individual work, the more time has been invested in its execution
by the sculptor, and the greater the expense to its owner. The culmination of such efforts hopefully results in the creation of a
sculpture that is most attractive to the asye usu. When used by Baule diviners, such works not only flatter the asye usu but also add
to the theatrical spectacle of a public pronouncement of a divinatory revelation. Their aesthetic quality dazzles potential clients with
the caliber and sophistication of the instruments associated with a diviner. The beauty of a figure advertises its owner's success as
an intermediary with the spirit world. Consequently, diviners prosper by commissioning superlative figures as divinatory instruments.
Ownership of extraordinary objects thus directly affects a diviner's professional standing and enhances public perception of his or
The Baule people, known as one of the largest ethnic group in the country, have played a central role in twentieth-
century Ivorian history. They waged the longest war of resistance to French colonization of any West African
people, and maintained their traditional objects and beliefs longer than many groups in such constant contact with
European administrators, traders, and missionaries. According to a legend, during the eighteenth century, the
queen, Abla Poku, had to lead her people west to the shores of the Comoe, the land of Senufo. In order to cross
the river, she sacrificed her own son. This sacrifice was the origin of the name Baule, for baouli means “the child
has died.” Now about one million Baule occupy a part of the eastern Côte d'Ivoire between the Komoé and
Bandama rivers that is both forest and savanna land. Baule society was characterized by extreme individualism,
great tolerance, a deep aversion toward rigid political structures, and a lack of age classes, initiation, circumcision,
priests, secret societies, or associations with hierarchical levels. Each village was independent from the others and
made its own decisions under the presiding presence of a council of elders. Everyone participated in discussions,
including slaves. It was an egalitarian society. The Baule compact villages are divided into wards, or quarters, and
subdivided into family compounds of rectangular dwellings arranged around a courtyard; the compounds are
usually aligned on either side of the main village street. The Baule are agriculturists; yams are the staple,
supplemented by fish and game; coffee and cocoa are major cash crops. The importance of the yam is
demonstrated in an annual harvest festival in which the first yam is symbolically offered to the ancestors, whose
worship is a prominent aspect of Baule religion. The foundation of Baule social and political institutions is the
matrilineal lineage; each lineage has ceremonial stools that embody ancestral spirits. Paternal descent is
recognized, however, and certain spiritual and personal qualities are believed to be inherited through it. The Baule
believe in an intangible and inaccessible creator god, Nyamien. Asie, the god of the earth, controls humans and
animals. The spirits, or amuen, are enrowed with supernatural powers. Religion is founded upon the idea of death
and the immortality of the soul. Ancestors are the object of worship but are not depicted.
Baule art is sophisticated and stylistically diverse. Non inherited, the sculptor’s profession is the result of a
personal choice. The Baule have types of sculpture that none of the other Akan peoples possess. Wooden
sculptures and masks allow a closer contact with the supernatural world. Baule statues are usually standing on a
base with legs slightly bent, with their hands resting on their abdomen in a gesture of peace, and their elongated
necks supporting a face with typically raised scarification and bulging eyes. The coiffure is always very detailed
and is usually divided into plaits. Baule figures answer to two types of devotion: one depicts the “spiritual” spouse
who, in order to be appeased, requires the creation of a shrine in the personal hut of the individual. A man will own
his spouse, the blolo bian, and a woman her spouse, the blolo bla, which they carry around everywhere they go.
The Baule are also noted for their fine wooden sculpture, particularly for their ritual figures representing spirits;
these are associated with the ancestor cult. The Baule have also created monkey figures gbekre that more or less
resemble each other. Endowed with prognathic jaw and sharp teeth and a granular patina resulting from sacrifices,
the monkey holds a bowl or a pestle in its paws. Sources differ on its role or function: some say it intervenes in the
ritual of divination, others that it is a protection against sorcerers, or a protective divinity of agrarian rites, or a bush
spirit. The figures and human masks are elegant -- well polished, with elaborate hairdressings and scarification.
Masks correspond to three types of dances: the gba gba, the bonu amuen, and the goli. They never represent the
ancestors and are always worn by men. The gba gba is used at the funerals of women during the harvest season.
It celebrates beauty and age, hence its refined features. The double mask represents the marriage of the sun and
the moon or twins, whose birth is always a good sign. The bonu amuen protects the village from external threats; it
obliges the woman to a certain discipline; and it appears at the commemorations of death of notables. When they
intervene in the life of the community, they take the shape of a wooden helmet that represents a buffalo or
antelope and which is worn with a raffia costume and metal ankle bracelets; the muzzle has teeth which incarnate
the fierce animal that is to defend the group. The very characteristic, round-shaped “lunar” goli is surmounted by
two horns. It was borrowed from the Wan for a celebration adopted by the Baule after 1900. Celebrating peace and
joy, they would sing, dance, and drink palm wine. In the procession, the goli preceded the four groups of dancers,
representing young adolescents. The goli would be used on the occasion of the new harvest, the visit of
dignitaries, or at the funerals of notables. Boxes for the mouse oracle (in which sticks are disturbed by a live
mouse, to give the augury) are unique to the Baule, whose carvers also produce heddle pulleys, combs, hairpins,
and gong mallets.