Central Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lele or Bashilele peoples, ca. early 20th century CE. A finely carved wooden mask with a minimalist visage comprised of almond-shaped eyes with curving brows, an elongated triangular nose tacked on with a thin copper sheet, full lips surrounding a gaping mouth, puffy cheeks, semicircular ears, and a broad forehead, all beneath a simple cap boasting a slanted brim with incised horizontal stripes. Several interior perforations mimicking ritual scarification marks embellish the cheeks and around the eyes, and thick cinnabar pigment imbues a natural coloration to the eye lids and mouth. A narrow triangular copper panel with stippled details in repousse is situated central to the forehead, and dozens of white and red spots cover any unadorned surfaces. With several peripheral perforations and beautiful dark-brown patina, this is a spectacular example from central Africa! Custom wooden display stand included. Size: 8" W x 11.5" H (20.3 cm x 29.2 cm); 16.375" H (41.6 cm) on included custom stand.
The Lele traditions of visual arts is one of great prominence, though their creation of masks for ritual, ceremonial, or other purposes are exceedingly rare and highly-valued amongst world-class American and European collections. Stylistic influences of the Lele come primarily from neighboring tribes like the Pende, Bushoong, and Kuba; the addition of metal paneling across the face is indicative of the Bushoong, for example. According to the curatorial staff of the Brooklyn Museum, masks like this example are traditionally used at funerals of elders and chiefs, however they also appear in annual performances honoring and teaching the history of Lele origins and migrations. Such styles of masks also have similar functions and uses among the people of the Kuba tribe who share similar fundamental beliefs regarding life, death, the afterlife, and the creation of the universe.
Provenance: private New York, New York, USA collection; ex-Peter Loebarth collection, Germany
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Surface wear and abrasions commensurate with age as expected, small chips and losses to ears, face, cap, and peripheries, with fading and minor losses to pigmentation, and some minor inactive insect damage. Light earthen deposits and nice dark-brown patina throughout.