Title: Chief's Chair
Date: 19th century
Artist: Unidentified Chokwe artist
Medium: wood, brass, and hide
29 1/4 x 11 x 17 1/2 in. (74.3 x 27.9 x 44.5 cm)
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object Number: 7:1943
Place associated: Lunda Norte or Lunda Sul province, Angola
Current Location: On View, Gallery 117
This chair is a symbol of political power and social hierarchy. The top of the chair back features the heads of five Chokwe chiefs in royal headdresses. Below the chiefs, on the lower back are carved images of three initiates of the young men’s masking society, an association controlled by the chief. Below the initiates, on one side are a pair of musicians who carry and play a wood slit drum. On the opposite rung are two women with tall pestles pounding food in a mortar. The other two rungs feature carvings of scenes from Chokwe life, including a man leading a cow. From the 16th century, Portuguese traders imported European-style joinery chairs and presented them as gifts to their African trading partners. As the chairs were traded into the interior, they became prestige objects and eventually served as prototypes for chairs used by Chokwe chiefs.

Private Collection, Lisbon, Portugal

- 1942
R. [Raphael] Stora, New York, NY, USA, purchased from Private Collection [1]

1942 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, purchased from R. [Raphael] Stora [2]

[1] In a letter dated January 15, 1943 from R. Stora to Catherine Filsinger of the City Art Museum, Stora noted "I bought this chair myself in Lisbon, Portugal" [SLAM document files].

[2] An invoice dated December 26, 1942 from R. Stova to the City Art Museum documents the purchase of this object, listed as "No. 79 One Wooden Carved Chair..." [SLAM document files]. Minutes of the Administrative Board of the City Art Museum, January 7, 1943.
Exhibition History
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: 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: The St. Louis Art Museum: Handbook of the Collections
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
Title: Saint Louis Art Museum: Handbook of the Collection
Editor: Mary Ann Steiner
Publisher: Saint Louis Art Museum
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