Although I did not orchestrate your open-ended question regarding value, those who have come to "know" me will recognize my predilection for amplifying the multiple interpretations of the term "value". While I assume that your specific meaning may be to establish a viable financial value, I cannot deviate from my preferred vocation to encourage consideration of the aesthetic and symbolic values before addressing and ultimately deferring the question of monetary value, or appraisal.
Firstly, I am not certain whether one of the images at which we are looking has been reversed. Both the Barbier-Mueller [B-M] image and yours portray what appear to be mirror images of the same basic chair. The snake heads in the base and all of the directional beaded patterns are opposite. Nonetheless one can see in both -- facing in either direction -- significant elements such as the inter-twined snakes in the base structure as well as what Dr. Geary refers to as the "double-headed serpent motif, an emblem of Bamum kingship reserved for the king's exclusive use..." in the upper back sections. In her 1981 article, Dr. Geary indicates that the double-headed serpent motif "embodies the concept of royal power in a legendary reference to the charismatic King Mbuembue who ruled during the 1820s and 1830s. Like a serpent with two heads, he was able to strike on two military fronts simultaneously, that is, conquer the enemy. The double-headed serpent is an allusion to the king's strength and guile, and in that does not correspond to a real animal, such as the python or boa." (Christraud M. Geary, "Bamum Thrones and Stools " African Arts, Vol. 14, No. 4 (Aug., 1981), p.41.)
Both your and the B-M thrones are quite close in over-all detail compared with other thrones of this class. In comparison, the Rautenstrauch-Joest [R-J] example identified as having originated during King Njoya's reign displays a notable difference from them in that the RJ example exhibits two inter-twined snakes in each of the two horizontal openwork sections of the chair-backs; your and the B-M examples display three openwork sections each with three double-headed snakes in alternating up-down directions. Within the similarities which are readily observable in the two similar examples and that of the R-J Museum are the symbolic patterns in the bead embroidery: Alternating triangles here in blue-and-white, a possible iconic reference to the leopard, appear on the bars between the sections of openwork on the chair-back; frog/toad (alternately vagina) iconography, symbolizing fertility, encircles the cowry-covered seat area (Cowries, formerly currency, are also a persistent symbol of wealth.); the spear motif (here in red and white), which "may be associated with success in war, one of the pillars of the Bamum kingdom" (Geary, 1981, p.42) appears on alternate bars between chair-backs' openwork sections. "Bamum Thrones and Stools" offers a varied and compelling range of pertinent and illuminating symbolic and ritual data beyond the scope of this response...
Beyond the symbolic and ritual references which indicate the cultural significance of Bamum thrones and stools, the authentication of an ethnographic/artistic work -- regardless of perceived, even striking, similarities to documented works -- must be undertaken to confirm identity and establish market value. Specific analysis of component materials -- and of patina and wear -- and the tracing of the object's history are among the actions to pursue in determining the contexts of production, custody and/or usage which inform assessments of authenticity and generally correspondent financial value. For an outline of the requisite steps in the authentication process, see Message 2295
for a link to the overview provided to the group previously by Mark Rasmussen. As you have seen -- or will see -- in the recommended source materials, you will need to seek evidence or clear indications of production and/or use in the specific Bamum locale as well as to determine a period of object creation and/or use in order to conclude ultimately if your throne is indeed a court/ritual object linkable to the period(s), place and body of work to which it appears initially
to be related. It may otherwise be either a work commissioned and created for prestige (or other purposes) related to this documented body of work in the region (but from a different era) or, alternately, a skilled reproduction created for artistic and/or commercial purposes based on and inspired by previous examples but not linked to these examples other than by resemblance and like methods of craftsmanship.
It has been possible to identify the throne's form and potential identity by merit of its quite close similarity to a trackable object and related examples. We are fortunate indeed to have available so much relevant documentation! Closer scrutiny is now required for appraisal (see recently posted links and responses regarding appraisal), although appreciation need not be deferred.
On Feb 5, 2008, at 6:29 AM, Judy Leach wrote:
Hi there Lee
Thank you so much for that information. I looked at the barbier-mueller website and it was like looking at my own photo.
Now for the big question.Would you have any idea as to the value of the chair?
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