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The Bartos staff figure is a rare example within the corpus of Bamana figurative sculpture. The Bartos figure can be compared to another in the collection of Dr. and Mrs. Pascal Imperato, illustrated by Ezra (1986, fig.23). It has the same flanged base and employs the same use of strong geometric forms and angled planes. Ezra suggests its function may have been that of a sonkalani, a sculpture carried by dancers or placed on the ground in a dance area. Protective magical substances were applied to such figures and Ezra states that the name sonkalani may be interpreted to mean 'little handles on which to make sacrifices'. The encrusted patina at the core suggests this too once had a magic belt at the waist. Most figures which are fully carved are associated with the Jo initiate society. For stylistic comparison, see Colleyn (ed.), catalogue number 129 in the Detroit Institute of Arts, Tannahill Collection, which is from the Bougouni or Diola region.
The Bartos figure was acquired from the dealer Mathias Komor (1909-1984) before 1962. Komor was one of the first dealers in New York to specialize in Ancient, Asian and 'Primitive' art when he opened his gallery at Madison Avenue and 71st in 1941.