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Frieze Masters Highlights

by Entwistle on 12 October 2016

Among the fair highlights at Frieze Masters 2016 in London was this extraordinary royal caryatid stool from the Bamileke peoples of the BatiƩ region of Cameroon...

This rare and important royal caryatid stool is a work of exceptional sculptural ingenuity as it conflates anthropomorphic and zoomorphic elements into its openwork form.

The stool manages to be both a utilitarian object of royal prerogative as well as a vivid example of the artistic license employed to fuse human and animal symbolism into an artwork of great surrealistic force.

The stool possesses a remarkable provenance - it was given, by repute, by Sultan N'joja of Bamoum, to the German Governor of Cameroon between 1895 and 1907, Jesko von Puttkamer. It was then acquired from him in 1905 by Friedrich Wield, Hamburg and subsequently to the renowned collector Lore Kegel, Hamburg, from whom it passed to the present owner by descent.

Exhibited in the landmark exhibition Gods Spirits Ancestors: African Sculpture from Private German Collections held at the Villa Stuck, Munich in 1992-1993, the stool was also presented in the exhibition Cameroon: Art and Kings, held at the Museum Rietberg, Zurich in 2008.

Use of caryatid stools like this were the exclusive privilege of the king or his mother. Ordinary members of the society had to be content with stools made out of palmleaf midribs. Higher members of society could use a carved stool with a simple base, while dignitaries were allowed the same but with tripartite foot and carvings. A stool with an animal motif was strictly reserved for the king.

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