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.
—Permanent Collection Object Description
Currently Off View
- Arts of Africa
- Reclined-Back Chair
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Wood and brass tacks
- 63.5 × 48.2 × 30.4 cm (25 × 19 × 12 in.)
- 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