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Ritual Seat (duho)

Artist Culture
Associated with
Dominican Republic, North and Central America
Furniture, wood
Current Location
Not on view
6 5/8 × 8 × 24 1/2 in. (16.8 × 20.3 × 62.2 cm)
Credit Line
Friends Fund and Primitive Art Society Fund in honor of Morton D. May
Public Domain
Object Number
This extraordinary sculpture is a masterpiece of the Taino civilization that thrived in the Caribbean in the 14th and 15th centuries. Carved from incredibly dense guaiacum wood, its form is likely an actual tree branch. The artist used the natural angles to define the bent legs of the human figure. The figure’s arms are curled up behind the head, while a shallow curved surface dominates the emaciated body. (The figures ribs can be seen on the bottom.) This depressed area led early scholars to identify the object as a duho, or ritual seat, but it may instead have functioned as a ceremonial platter during a ritual feast. Such objects were collected by 19th-century businessmen working in Santo Domingo, who often signed them to establish ownership and document their history.
late 1860s
Private Collection, Dominican Republic [1]

Mr. Bruns of Roth, Bruns and Co., San Felipe de Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, acquired from Private Collection [1]

by 1878 - 1895
Albert Warren Kelsey (1840–1921), St. Louis, MO, given by Mr. Bruns [1]

1895 - 1981
Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis, MO, given by Albert Warren Kelsey [2]

1981 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, purchased from Missouri Historical Society [3]

[1] A letter dated July 17, 1878, written by A. Warren Kelsey to Oscar N. Collet describes the history of the object prior to Kelsey's ownership. The original letter is held in the Archives of the Archaeology Collection, Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis [SLAM document files].

[2] Minutes of the Missouri Historical Society, August 5, 1898 [SLAM document files].

[3] Minutes of the Acquisitions Committee of the Board of Trustees, Saint Louis Art Museum, April 27, 1981.
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