Benga: Dance Figure
modeled in 1935; cast in 1935-36
James Richmond Barthé (American, 1901–1989)
Object Place: New York, New York
Overall: 47.6 x 17.8 x 11.1 cm (18 3/4 x 7 x 4 3/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
John Axelrod Gallery (Gallery 326)
James Richmond Barthé, known for his works depicting the Black experience and for his studies of the male physique, was a leading member of the Harlem Renaissance. Born in Mississippi, he was trained at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Students League in New York.
Feral Benga has been described as “Barthé’s signature piece.” It portrays François (a.k.a. Feral) Benga, a Senegalese cabaret dancer, who, like his female counterpart Josephine Baker, created a sensation on the Paris stage with his “carnal choreography often set in steamy and distant places.” Barthé saw Benga perform in 1934 and began modeling the sculpture immediately after his return to New York City. The resulting work is a powerful blend of traditional European modes of sculpture combined with elements of modernity and the African American experience.
Signed on the top of the base: BARTHE
Galerie Féelix Marcilhac, Paris, France; collection of Joyce Wein (1928-2005), New York, N. Y.; purchased from the above gallery in 1999; estate of Joyce Wein, New York, NY; Michael Rosenfeld gallery, LLC, New York, N.Y.
William Francis Warden Fund and American Decorative Arts Deaccessioning Fund
© Barthé Trust