|Early 20th century|
Face Mask Mvondo Lwalwa Tribe, DR Congo
This dynamic mask is known as mvondo. This mask, and others of this style, have historically been carved from the mulela tree; their coloration is derived from a fruit from the mukula tree, which is also referred to as the “bloodwood” or “sealing wax” tree. Interestingly, Lwalwa sculptors evolved to become privileged members of the tribe and were highly paid for their craft. Their skills were often passed down from father to son.
This portion of scholarship is from Sotheby's (auction object description): "Lwalwa art is most famous for the powerful, highly cubistic masks While the nose-profile according to Ceyssens (in MRAC 1995: 327) refers to the long beak of the calao bird, the characteristic protrusions on the temples represent skin decoration, dejindula or kankolo. The worn small hole between the mouth and nose, serving for the attachment of a rope that was clasped between the teeth of the performer (cf. African-American Institute 1975: 104, text to fig. 76) as well as the deep patina on the mask’s interior suggest that the Silberman mask is of great age. Highly unusual is the hook on top of the nose: The symmetric arrangement of the mask, confronted with the dynamic jutting nose and the protruding cylindrical mouth, all connected by a warm sange-de-boeuf-colored patina, make the Silberman mask one of the most impressive of its kind.
That Ernest Ascher, Picasso's friend, would have owned this mask, is not a surprise. For the influence of Lwalwa masks on Picasso's sculptures see Rubin (1984: 324). For a closely related mask, also collected by Karel Timmermans, cf. Lehuard (1983: 41), sold at Sotheby's Paris, December 5, 2006, lot 123. For another related example collected in 1930 by T. Fourche and now in the collection of the Musée Royal de l'Afrique Centrale, Tervuren, cf. MRAC (1995: cat. 102, pp. 140 and 327). Regarding the patination of the latter example, virtually identical to the Silberman mask, Ceyssen (in MRAC 1995: 327) notes: "The red skin- color is obtained using the seeds of [the] kakula bush (Bixa orellana) mixed with oil. Once this has dried, one fixes the red color by rubbing it in with fruit of itungulu (Amomum citratum). This red base penetrates into the wood quite rapidly and gradually darkens. In this mask there is a secondary red upper-layer [...] whose composition remains unknown to us, and that appears 'fresher' than the ground-layer." This example, from a private Belgian collection (more provenance will be provided to those interested), dates to the early 20th century, per its signs of normal wear and age.
|Location of Origin: Africa|
|Medium/Materials: wood, kaolin and pigment stain, rope, oils|
|Dimensions: 11'', 28 cm|
|Primary Classification: African Artwork, Ethnographic & Tribal Arts : African Art|
|The Lwalwa are famous for their dancing and masks play an important part in their celebrations, particularly the secret rituals of the bangongo society, within which young men were initiated into adulthood. The Lwalwa people are related to the Lulua and like them, the men are hunters and the women are farmers. They live in the southwest area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo stretching into Angola. The Lwalwa, living in the western Kasai region, have a long tradition of cultural and linguistic exchange with other central African people, including the Mbagani, Salampasu, Kete, Lunda, Yaka, Suku and Kongo (Felix 1987: 94). The Lwalwa pantheon is dominated by the Supreme Being Mvidie Mukulu, and Nzambi, the first creator, who is omniscient.|
|Provenance: Ex. Private Belgian Collection (more information available on request)|
|Price:||Item has been sold.|
|Offered By:||Items for sale from dealers we worked with previously|
121 Mount Vernon, Boston, MA 02108 USA
Item has been sold.
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