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This handsome piece of African soapstone sculpture is a modern piece with traditional roots. Depicting a kneeling woman holding a swaddled baby and toting a basket on her head, this piece was carved of grey stone that has a slight greenish tint and a subtle speckled pattern. Like all soapstone, it has a faintly greasy feel, often described as "rubbing a dry bar of soap." It is polished for a smooth surface, but has not been oiled as Kenyan Kisii stone is. We believe this sculpture hails from Zimbabwe. A true work of original art, it is signed with the incised signature "LENOR" on the bottom.
The woman is wearing a short shift, with carved details at the necklines, hem and bottom edges of the sleeves. It is decorated with chipped-in designs front and back. Her hair is in cornrows and the bowl-like basket she is carrying on her head holds folded pieces of cloth, artist-dyed in blue and burgundy.
At 10 1/2 inches tall and with an oval base measuring 5 1/4 inches by 2 1/2 inches, it's a nice size to stand alone or in a grouping. It's in very good condition, especially for a piece made of this soft, talc-based stone. Carvings like this are often quite chipped; this one has just a few pinpoint nicks. Since it weighs 3 1/2 pounds, it needs a sturdy shelf, if that's your choice. Wherever it's displayed, it's a wonderful contemporary artwork.