Aesthetics

Sao art and architecture are incontestably masterpieces of skill, perfection and refinement. Other than simple terra cotta, the Sao were also artists in bronze, iron, glass and ivory, but with irregular aesthetic success, it should be said. At times fine artists, they do not forget to include a wealth of details in their human and animal representations, as well as an exceptionally smooth and realist finish. At other times rudimentary, the Sao artists left us other terra cotta pieces with a much more rough, hasty, stylized, and almost childish aspect.

• Representation of animals

This is an extremely frequent type of burial sculptury for the Sao: the quality, however, is variable. As they were made for daily use, these statues are quite coarse. The aesthetic interest lies in the richness of expression seeing as how the statues serve a great cultural, even religous purpose.

These statuettes represent either protective animals, or divinities in either bronze or terra cotta. They are quite well crafted. Jewels represent ducks, ram heads or larger animals like hippopotamuses, crocodiles, gorillas, or lions...Statues of horses or cattle are sometimes accompanied by a rider.

• Representation of humans

There is a certain stylistic consistancy in Sao ceramics which can be used to distinguish stylistic and temporal periods, but even so, it is difficult to precisely date these statues.

These general references date most of these statues from the period between the 11th and the 16th centuries.

Human representations are relatively small; most have a height of less than 10 centimeters, none more than 35 centimeters. The Sao heads were generally meant to be mounted on a large base, without arms, legs or a body.