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Leopard stool (royal seat)

Artist/maker unknown, African, Côte d'Ivoire, Baule

Made in Toumodi, Côte d'Ivoire, Africa

20th century

Wood and pigment

17 1/2 x 32 1/2 x 9 1/8 inches (44.5 x 82.6 x 23.2 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
125th Anniversary Acquisition. Gift of William C. Bertolet, 2000

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Additional information:
  • PublicationGifts in Honor of the 125th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    This royal seat, or ulimbi bia, takes the form of a powerful leopard grasping between its teeth a smaller animal, most likely its prey rather than its offspring. Its muscular form is enlivened by a surface flecked with spots. On the leopard's back is a stool with a gently curving seat and vertical supports decorated with incised geometric motifs. The artist has created a dynamic composition that balances the solid monumentality of the animal figure with the delicate detailing of the gold-painted stool.

    Carved as an allegory of power and authority, this object of prestige is a wonderful example of the lively cultural exchange among Akan-speaking groups in Ghana and Côte d Ivoire. The stool on the leopard's back replicates the well-known royal seats made by the Asante peoples of Ghana. Asante stools, known as dwa, have been imitated by admiring neighbors since the beginning of the twentieth century. In this seat the combination of the royal stool of the Asante and the leopard an animal associated with rulers throughout Africa makes it the ultimate symbol of leadership and power.

    Although borrowing from the artistic repertoire of the Asante, the artist of this work is from the neighboring Baule, Akan-speaking peoples who live in Côte d Ivoire. Other seats in this style, including one in the collection of the Barbier-Mueller Museum in Geneva, have been identified as originating among the Faafwe, a Baule people living in the Toumodi region of Côte d Ivoire. Christa Clarke, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gifts in Honor of the 125th Anniversary (2002), p. 111.