Female figure

19th–20th century
Artist Unidentified

Object Place: Cameroon Grassfields, Cameroon


93.98 cm (37 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Wood, pigment, traces of red and white camwood powder

On View

Richard B. Carter Gallery (Gallery 171)


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art



More than a hundred chieftaincies are identified with the Grasslands. These were often rivals for both territory and self-aggrandizing arts. Probably from a court in the Bamileke area, this expressive, seemingly pregnant female figure most likely represents a royal wide or mother. Wearing royal anklets, she shows the hand-to-chin gesture meant to temper speech in the presence of the fon, or king. A large square hold in the back suggests that this work may have been detached from a palace facade, or that it once contained empowering medicines.


1970s, acquired by Gallery 43, London [see note]; November 25, 1977, sold by Gallery 43 to William and Bertha Teel, Marblehead, MA; 1991, partial gift of William and Bertha Teel to the MFA; 2014, acquired fully with the bequest of William Teel to the MFA. (Accession Dates: January 22, 1992 and February 26, 2014)

NOTE: In a letter of December 16, 1977, Philip Goldman of Gallery 43 stated that he had “acquired [the figure] some years ago privately.”

Credit Line

Gift of William E. and Bertha L. Teel