Horse and Rider and Four Figures

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Bougouni region, Mali

Horse and Rider and Four Figures, Probably late 14th/early 15th century

Horse and Rider: 70 x 21 x 48.5 cm (27 1/2 x 8 1/4 x 19 in.); Figures: 28.5 x 14.6 x 19.3 cm (17 1/4 x 5 3/4 x 7 5/8 in.); 46 x 14.7 x 19 cm (18 x 5 7/8 x 7 1/2 in.); 44 x 10.2 x 18.5 cm (17 1/4 x 4 x 7 1/4 in.); 28.5 x 12.7 x 18.4 cm (17 3/8 x 5 x 7 1/4 in.)
Ada Turnbull Hertle Endowment, 1987.314.1-5

These sculptures are among the oldest-known art objects from the Western Sudan. They include a mounted horseman and a large seated male figure, believed to have been made by one artist, and one smaller male and two female figures that were probably made by a second artist. Bracelets, necklaces, belts, and incised geometric patterns, perhaps representing scarification, decorate all of the objects. While daggers and quivers indicate hunting and military power, the other forms of adornment suggest elevated status. The term Bankoni is used to refer to figures of this style. The name comes from the village where archaeologists unearthed one such object, about six miles from Bamako, the present-day capital of Mali. Today this region is home to the Bamana people, whose ancestors made these works. Archaeologists have found Bankoni-style terracottas buried in ritual mounds.

— Descriptive text

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Art Institute of Chicago, The Silk Road and Beyond: Travel, Trade, and Transformation, Sept. 30, 2006–Apr. 22, 2007, pp. 52-53 (ill).

Publication History

Kathleen Bickford Berzock, "Equestrian and Four Figures,” The Silk Road and Beyond: Travel, Trade, and Transformation, Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 33, 1 (2007), pp. 52-53 (ill.).

Katie Dowling, Art Express: Images of African and African American Art (Art Institute of Chicago, 1996), pl. 1 (ill.).

Kathleen E. Bickford and Cherise Smith, "Art of the Western Sudan," African Art at the Art Institute of Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 23, 2 (1997), pp. 108-109, fig. 2 (ill.).

Kathleen Bickford Berzock, "African Art at the Art Institute of Chicago," African Arts 32, 4 (Winter 1999), pp. 30-31, fig. 17 (ill.).

Monica Blackmun Visona, Robin Poyner, and Herbert M. Cole, A History of Art in Africa (Harry N. Abrams, 2000), pp. 110 (ill.).

Ownership History

Unknown owner, Bamako, Mali; sold to unnamed collector, New York, N.Y., 1987; sold to the Art Institute, 1987.