Ask-a-Librarian: Baule door

Ask-a-Librarian: Baule door

Baule Door

The Barnes has both art and horticulture libraries. When visitors or students have a question about the Barnes, they ask a librarian. 

Q: Do you have any more information on the door that is upstairs across from the Joy of Life?

A: It’s a 19th- or early 20th-century wood and pigment door made by the Baule peoples from Côte d’Ivoire. Among the Baule, such doors once graced courtyards and the entrances to interior rooms of a home. In its original home in Africa, a door like this would have been commissioned by someone fairly wealthy.

The motifs are generally decorative, although some might also illustrate proverbs. On this door is a pair of birds, the representation of a mask, and a double crocodile. For the artist, this was a great opportunity to advertise his skills. Most works of tradition-based African art weren’t signed per se but were recognized by the style of the hand, so artists were known and appreciated even if the actual works themselves were not signed.

Baule Door
Baule peoples. Door (Anuan)19th–early 20th century. Côte d'Ivoire. Wood, pigment, 61 1/2 x 20 x 2 in. (156.2 x 50.8 x 5.1 cm). A238. Photo: © 2013 The Barnes Foundation

Albert Barnes admired this door for its surface patterns, the contrast between curved and angular lines, and the way in which motifs such as the double crocodile show an almost internal rhythm.

Additional information can be found in The Barnes Foundation: Masterworks, page 353. Oxford Art Online provides more details on the Baule people. 

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