Songye Mask, Democratic Republic of the Congo
height 22 1/4in (56.5cm)
Wood, bluing, pigment
Henri Kamer, New York and Paris
Private Collection, New York
The carved wooden mask with a tall crest extending and bisecting the bulging, pierced eyes; a protruding rectangular mouth below, striated with linear and concentric bands carved over the total surface with multi-layered blue, red and black pigment, pierced around the rim for attachments, wooden pegs for native repairs; fine encrusted and aged patina overall.
Reckitt's Blue (bluing), a laundry whitener, was manufactured by Reckitt & Sons, established in 1840 in Hull, England by Isaac Reckitt. It was exported and sold globally after 1862 by his sons.
Cf. Sotheby's, May 17, 2007, Lot #151
"Certain masking traditions of the Congo River basin personify local control of mystical power. Striated face masks known as kifwebe probably originated in North Shaba, an area inhabited by both Songye and Luba groups. Significant departures in the role and formal interpretation of this art form subsequently developed in each culture. Among the small Songye chiefdoms along the Lomami River, maskers were emissaries of the ruling elite, who relied on the ideology of witchcraft and sorcery to sustain their rule. These kifwebe members commanded a body of esoteric secret knowledge visually encoded mnemonically in the mask's features. Hierarchical distinctions between a single female mask and an unlimited number of male masks are reflected in color and in sculptural features". (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)
- Please note the Provenance is Henri Kamer, New York and Paris; Private Collection, New York