240320 - Antique Terracotta Djenne horse head - Mali


Antique Terracotta Djenne horse head - Mali.
This superb and highly characteristic horse head measures 16 cm x 14 cm.
This Djenne shorse head was collected in my private collection in 1992.
This expressionist rendering of a horse’s head is an extremely rare piece, and was made by one of the most inscrutable groups in pre-colonial Africa: the Djenne. The head is sculpted as a right-angled tubular mass with the lower aspect representing the neck. The corner between the neck and the head proper is marked with a block-shaped ear. The face is long and slim, with a gaping mouth, a rounded muzzle with elongated nostrils and coffee-bean eyes mounted superiorly. The surface is undecorated, but the horse is clearly harnessed, with a stippled double band around the base of the neck and an integral three-strand strap arrangement that encircles the back of the head and proceeds to the muzzle. Pieces such as this represent wealth, as only the most elite members of any society (including the larger Mali Kingdom) could afford to own horses. There are preliminary data to suggest that the urns that these objects adorned were buried with important individuals and that the horse was usually shown with a rider – representing the deceased. This intriguing piece of sculpture is made of terracottan by the Djenne people of Mali. It depicts a horse head.The material used was worked skillfully by the Djenne artisans, and is the results today of a truly distiguinshed works of art in the technique of ceramic art. Djenne was once a prospering city which was also once the trade center of this region and it was located at the the Inland Delta of the Niger River which was the heart of the Mali Empire between the 12th and 16th centuries. The Djenne civilization are precursors to the Dogon of Mali.