Exceptional Lega Mask, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Lot 86
Exceptional Lega Mask, Democratic Republic of the Congo
US$ 125,000 - 175,000
€110,000 - 150,000

African and Oceanic Art

5 Dec 2017, 13:00 PST

Los Angeles

Lot Details
Exceptional Lega Mask, Democratic Republic of the Congo Exceptional Lega Mask, Democratic Republic of the Congo Exceptional Lega Mask, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Exceptional Lega Mask, Democratic Republic of the Congo
idimu
Wood, pigments
height 11 1/4in (28.6cm)

Provenance
Aaron Furman, New York, 1960s
Jay C. Leff, Uniontown, PA
Sotheby's Parke Bernet New York, April 22, 1967 (lot 109)
Hélène and Philippe Leloup, Paris
Private American Collection

Exhibited
Paris, La Sculpture des Lega, Galerie Hélène et Philippe Leloup, June 14 - July 30, 1994

Published
Biebuyck, Daniel, La Sculpture des Lega, Paris: Galerie Hélène et Philippe Leloup, 1994, pp. 172 - 173, no. 66

According to Biebuyck (ibid, p. 46), 'The Bwami initiates differentiate between five generic type of masks: lukwakongo, lukungu, kayamba, idumu, muminia. The words "mask", "face mask", "hand mask", "maskette", or "horned mask" are not real equivalents for the Lega terms. Differentiation is based not only on form but implies numerous other criteria, such as: type of material used (wood versus ivory/bone), size (maskettes versus large masks large enough to cover the face or most of the face), form (masks and maskettes without horns and those with horns), mode of usage, ownership and function.

All Lega masks are anthropomorphic, none are zoomorphic; they are stylized representations of the human face, even those with horns. No Lega mask combines human and animal facial traits, or represents complex mythical or undefinable beings. There are no construction masks...no enormous masks...no helmet masks...no masks with elaborate superstructures...no polychrome masks. In general, special costumes (in barkcloth, fibers or leaves) or distinctive paraphernalia (swords, staffs, scepters) are not associated with any of the masks -- features that are of great significance in other areas of Zaire...

The differences between Lega masks and those of other peoples of Zaire point to their very special usage in Bwami initiations. From what we know through detailed studies available on other Zaire arts, the significance and usage of masks among the Lega are unique."

Biebuyck continues (p. 54)"...larger masks are fundamentally different in function, meaning and manner of ownership from the maskettes. The wooden idumu, for example, are stylistically and morphologically similar to the wooden lukwakongo, but they are large, have beards and are mostly almost completely whitened, at least when they occur in the rites. They form part of the collectively controlled baskets and may be used in either yananio or kindi initiation rites. In some cases they are hung on a specially erected fence and surrounded by the individually owned maskettes, in which case the idimu represent what we would consider to be the arch-patriarch or the primordial founder of the group, or the originator of the particular mask rite in that group. In some initiation rites, the mask may be worn by a preceptor high on the forehead, the beard hanging before the face, or on the side of the head."

The present work has a heavily-adzed surface and is decorated with red and white organic pigments on the heart-shaped facial plane. It has, according to Biebuyck, several particularly special features including large open spherical eyes of unequal size, a crooked and arched nose, a large, open rectangular mouth and thick lips with indentations. The lower half of the interior with darkened, shiny, leather-like surface shows evidence of much age and use within the Lega culture.
Activities
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