Title: Power Figure (Bociþ)
Date: late 19th century
Artist: Unidentified Fon artist
Medium: wood, cloth, fiber, and encrustations
40 x 5 1/2 x 6 1/4 in. (101.6 x 14 x 15.9 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Sharon McDonald Hollander and Stuart Hollander
Object Number: 1865:1981
Place associated: Zou or Littoral province, Benin
Current Location: On View, Gallery 117
This sturdy, compact figure with strong hands, flexed arms, and piercing eyes set within a large round head is poised to protect its owners from the havoc-wreaking forces of evil. The cavity at the base of the figure was once filled with powerful medicines of protection. When the figure was later buried in the ground, such medicines would have drawn even more power from the underworld spirits for additional protection. "Bociþ" figures were historically placed in the palace court of the king of the Fon (the people of Benin), alongside roads, next to houses, and in the forest to safeguard innocent people as they went about their daily lives.
Jacques Kerchache, Paris, France

Ben Heller, Inc., New York, NY, USA

- 1981
Sharon and Stuart Hollander, St. Louis, MO

1981 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, given by Sharon and Stuart Hollander [1]

The main source for this provenance is an article by Saint Louis Art Museum curator John Nunley [John W. Nunley, "Sacred Space, Spirit, and Power." Saint Louis Art Museum Bulletin (St. Louis, 1983): 25].

[1] A letter dated December 30, 1981 from Ryntha Johnson, of the Saint Louis Art Museum, to Mr. and Mrs. Stuart Hollander acknowledges the gift of this object [SLAM document files]. Minutes of the Acquisitions and Loans Committee of the Board of Trustees, Saint Louis Art Museum, November 13, 1981.
Exhibition History
Title: African Highlights (2008)
Date: July 2008 - October 2009
Venue: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: Art Walk: A Moving Experience
Date: November 14, 1991 - January 5, 1992
Venue: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: African Highlights (2009)
Date: Begin November 2009
Venue: Saint Louis Art Museum
Publication History
Title: African Vodun: Art, Psychology, and Power
Author: Suzanne Preston Blier
Title: West African Sculpture: Sacred Space, Spirit and Power
Periodical Title: The Saint Louis Art Museum Bulletin
Author: John W. Nunley
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: Saint Louis Art Museum: Handbook of the Collection
Editor: Mary Ann Steiner
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: African Art in American Collections
Year Published: 1988
Permalink to this object