Female heads are a common subject of carved loom pulleys. The Courtauld’s example has the elaborate hairstyle, scarifications, downcast eyes and open mouth typical of Guro ideals of feminine beauty. At the turn of the 20th century, West African sculpture became popular with European avant garde artists, collectors and critics. The Courtauld’s very small collection of African objects was bequeathed by modern art critic Roger Fry. Valued for their sophisticated and abstracted interpretation of the human form, West African objects had a significant influence on the development of modern art. Modigliani, whose painting, Female Nude, of 1916 is on display nearby, was directly inspired by the aesthetics of the Baule people of Côte D’Ivoire, neighbours of the Guro.
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