A Bakongo facemask

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Lot 2571
An exeptional Bakongo facemask
height 9 3/4in

Sold for US$ 42,000 inc. premium
An exeptional Bakongo facemask
Democratic Republic of Congo, of fine aged and darkened wood, the powerful and expressive face richly pigmented in red and white. Scarifications depicted by large hobnails.
height 9 3/4in

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    Henry and Joan Kagan before 1965

    Exhibited:
    Governors State University, IL, 2003
    Krannert Art Museum, IL, 2003
    Belger Art Foundation/University of Missouri-Kansas City, MO, 2004
    Tall Grass Art Association, IL, 2005

    Published:
    Bourgeois and Rodolitz, REMNANTS OF RITUAL: SELECTIONS FROM THE GELBARD COLLECTION OF AFRICAN ART, Ethnos, New York, 2003, p.32, fig.73

    Masks, such as this example, were worn by a ritual charm specialist, nganga, in order to relieve a sick person who, according to Yombe belief, had their soul seized and taken into the forest or across the waters. In many ways, this mask is a tour de force; the soft and rounded, naturalistic features appear almost as portraiture in relation to the many masks that seem to rehash canonic imagery without synthesis. Additionally, this striking example seems to display a contradiction within itself as the coloration (white coloring was seen as something frightful and associated with the dead to the Bakongo) adds a powerful and almost terrifying aspect to the otherwise serene and brooding face.
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