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Equestrian Figure Needs You!

Posted on by Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Equestrian Figure, c. 1450
Gift of Aimée Mott Butler Charitable Trust, Anne S. Dayton, Mr. and Mrs. Donald C. Dayton, Mr. and Mrs. William N. Driscoll, Clarence G. Frame and Mr. and Mrs. Clinton Morrison, 83.168

This label needs YOU!

What do you want to know about this object? Here’s your chance to ask. The curator will use your questions to revise this object label. Leave your responses in the Comments section below. Check back here after July 1 to see the new label shaped by your input.

What’s this all about?

This is one of three objects from the African galleries whose labels need your feedback. Next time you’re at the museum, be sure to stop by the “This label needs YOU!” podium in Gallery 250 or click here to leave input for Nkisi Nkonde as well.





Current Label

This mounted horseman fuses human dignity with animal strength. It comes from the Inner Niger Delta in Mali, a region where several kingdoms succeeded each other between the 9th and 16th centuries. Horses, introduced from north of the Sahara to West Africa around 1000 AD, soon became prestigious possessions, associated with political power and wealth. Representations of horse riders from ancient Mali have come to us in clay and wood. Yet this one is unlike any other example, in both style and age. Due to its uniqueness, however, this horseman has been subject to controversy. Some specialists questioned its authenticity. In 1980 the object underwent x-ray testing and radiocarbon dating, which revealed that it was carved from a single piece of wood dating from between 1250 and 1450 – making it one of the oldest Sub-Saharan sculptures known.


6 Responses to Equestrian Figure Needs You!

bryan kennedy says: May 15, 2012 at 10:53 am

I really like the info about the material and its authenticity.

I’m curious about this dude’s beard. Is it a sign of social standing?

You also hint at how this object “came to us.” How did the museum acquire this object? maybe there’s an interesting story there.

Kathryn says: May 15, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Did the piece serve a religious or ceremonial function? What was the significance in creating this figure? Did it’s creation serve a purpose or was it purely decorative?

Lorika says: May 16, 2012 at 11:28 am

I always wonder what an object was used for. Please tell us what its purpose was, and who would have used it.

Thank you! Love that you are looking for guidance in what to put on the labels!

Sara says: May 17, 2012 at 2:44 pm

More information about how it’s style and age are unique from other representation of horse riders from ancient Mali would be good. Maybe you could even include photos of a couple of other examples so visitors could compare the styles. Also, for those of us viewing online it would be helpful to have some sense of scale, how big is it?

Jonquil says: May 18, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Does this piece represent a real person? Is that the reason the horse is so small?

Jen Dolen says: May 21, 2012 at 10:51 am

Really nice info in current label – you piqued my interest with the authenticity/age information. Can you elaborate on how the style is different (aside from age, all you include is that it is carved from one piece of wood)?

I’m always curious about pedestals when they are included in a design. Is the horse standing on a platform attached to… what? It looks like a representative of a hut/dwelling, or perhaps something which would have topped a pole. Information on how it may have been displayed would be interesting, as well as regards to the scale of the figure/horse/”hut”.

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