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Reclined-Back Chair

A work made of wood and brass tacks.

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  • A work made of wood and brass tacks.


Late 19th/early 20th century


Democratic Republic of the Congo
Central Africa

About this artwork

Carved from a single block of wood, this seat combines the European backrest chair with the traditional African stool and is as striking for its sculptural qualities as it is for its functional features. The edge of the seat aligns with the front legs, while the backrest cantilevers out from the back legs. Instead of four legs—found in most European examples—this chair has six, adding both stability and structural support. The horizontal bar that runs between the legs on the sides provides additional reinforcement. The seat and back form an integrated and subtle curve onto which the user would have been able to recline. The creator paid special attention to the surface treatment, using imported brass tacks to embellish the seat through zigzagging patterns. The use of expensive European brass tacks for ornamentation suggests that this chair belonged to a wealthy chief who would have been able to afford such imports. In addition to the tacks, adz tool marks (in the form of concave depressions) from the fabrication of the chair are visible on the surface.
Chairs like this one are illustrated in European travelers’ accounts of their visits to Central Africa during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Ngombe chairs were one type of traditional African form that influenced the French bookbinder and furniture designer Pierre Legrain, who drafted African art forms into the formation of French Art Deco design during the 1920s. During this time it was common for collectors to display their African art next to modern works.


Currently Off View


Arts of Africa




Reclined-Back Chair


Democratic Republic of the Congo (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Wood and brass tacks


63.5 × 48.2 × 30.4 cm (25 × 19 × 12 in.)

Credit Line

African Art and Indian Art of the Americas Art Purchase Fund; O. Renard Goltra, Holly and David Ross, and the African Art and Indian Art of the Americas Acquisitions endowments; through prior acquisitions of the Britt Family Collection and Harold W. Geisel

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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