Skip to main content

Chief’s Chair

Unidentified Chokwe artist
19th century
Wood, brass, hide
Possibly associated with
Lunda Norte province, Central Africa, Angola, Africa
Lunda Sul province, Central Africa, Angola, Africa
Furniture, sculpture
Current Location
On View, Gallery 117
29 1/4 x 11 x 17 1/2 in. (74.3 x 27.9 x 44.5 cm)
Credit Line
Museum Purchase
Public Domain
Object Number
This chair is a symbol of political power and social hierarchy. The top of the chair back features the heads of five Chokwe chiefs in royal headdresses. Below the chiefs, on the lower back are carved images of three initiates of the young men’s masking society, an association controlled by the chief. Below the initiates, on one side are a pair of musicians who carry and play a wood slit drum. On the opposite rung are two women with tall pestles pounding food in a mortar. The other two rungs feature carvings of scenes from Chokwe life, including a man leading a cow. From the 16th century, Portuguese traders imported European-style joinery chairs and presented them as gifts to their African trading partners. As the chairs were traded into the interior, they became prestige objects and eventually served as prototypes for chairs used by Chokwe chiefs.
Private Collection, Lisbon, Portugal

- 1942
R. [Raphael] Stora, New York, NY, USA, purchased from Private Collection [1]

1942 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, purchased from R. [Raphael] Stora [2]

[1] In a letter dated January 15, 1943 from R. Stora to Catherine Filsinger of the City Art Museum, Stora noted "I bought this chair myself in Lisbon, Portugal" [SLAM document files].

[2] An invoice dated December 26, 1942 from R. Stova to the City Art Museum documents the purchase of this object, listed as "No. 79 One Wooden Carved Chair..." [SLAM document files]. Minutes of the Administrative Board of the City Art Museum, January 7, 1943.
Scroll back to top