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Label Text
Except for the crosspieces between the legs, this chair was carved from a single block of wood. It is both a functional piece of furniture and an intriguing sculpture that combines the form of a traditional African stool with that of a European chair with a backrest. The seat forms an integrated curve with the back, which is cantilevered away from the rear pair of legs. The top and bottom of the seat/backrest are narrower than the middle portion, creating a visually appealing silhouette. Special attention has been paid to the embellishment of the surface. Imported brass tacks cover the upper and lower parts of the stool, and iron tacks at each end create a special band-and-chevron decoration; the back and underside of the chair reveal carefully aligned adze marks whose parallel lines create a faceted surface.
Chairs like this one are illustrated in European travelers' accounts of their visits to Central Africa during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Such chairs were apparently the prerogative of chiefs who could afford the European brass tacks used to decorate them. In Europe during the 1920s, the artist and designer Pierre Legrain (1899-29) designed chairs inspired by the Ngombe and other Central African peoples for his wealthy clients.
Four legged wood chair with a continuous sloping back and seat. The top and legs are covered with brass tacks with band and V sections of iron tacks. There are stretchers between the front and back legs. The back and underside show adze marks and insect damage.
Galerie Lualaba, Brussels, 1984
Alain de Monbrison, Paris, -- to 1990
Exhibition History
African Forms in the Furniture of Pierre Legrain, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., August 9-November 29, 1998
America's Smithsonian: Celebrating 150 Years, organized by The Smithsonian, Los Angeles Convention Center, February 9-March 10, 1996; Kansas City Convention Center, April 10-May 19, 1996; Rhode Island Convention Center, Providence, August 21-September 19, 1996; St. Paul Civic Center, October 16-November 14, 1996, Houston, Texas, December 6, 1996- January 28, 1997, Portland Oregon, April 3 - May 6, 1997, Birmingham, Alabama, May 29-July 9, 1997, San Jose, California, July 31- August 25,1997
Art of the Personal Object, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., September 24, 1991-April 9, 2007
Published References
National Museum of African Art. 1999. Selected Works from the Collection of the National Museum of African Art. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, p. 144, no. 104.
Puccinelli, Lydia. 1998. African Forms in the Furniture of Pierre Legrain. Exhibition booklet. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, p. 7, no. 2, cover.
Puccinelli, Lydia. 1998. "Pierre-Emile Legrain and African Design." Newsletter of the Decorative Arts Society, Inc., vol. 6-3, pp. 5-6.
Smithsonian Institution. 1996. America's Smithsonian: Celebrating 150 Years. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, p. 101.
Stockstad, Marilyn and Michael W. Cothren. 2010. Art: A Brief History (4th edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Male use
geometric motif
National Museum of African Art
Ngombe artist
Credit Line
Museum purchase
Wood, brass and iron tacks
H x W x D: 60 x 33.5 x 60.4 cm (23 5/8 x 13 3/16 x 23 3/4 in.)
See more items in
National Museum of African Art Collection
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Early 20th century
Furniture and Furnishing
Object number