SALE END DATE AND TIME
July 31, 2016 : SALE CLOSED
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|Mende, Sierra Leone|
Mende staffs are even more rare than Mende shrine figures, and in the context of such staffs that have made their way to the Western world, this is among the finest and most elegant we will ever see. Although their exact function is not known, it is likely this staff and related examples were used in a variety of contexts related to the Sande and other socially important societies that regulated Mende community life. In addition to initiation-related ceremonial functions, objects used in these rituals were thought to have curative or medicinal powers, and may have also been employed to provide protection and serve a divination function as well. They were kept on altars with other sacred materials, such as important medicines, sacred objects, and power instruments. They were traditionally kept from public view and brought out on specific special occasions, later returning to being hidden.
This staff has the significant presence of applied palm oil, and the tapered carving style of the shaft is indicative of a mastery of carving by the craftsman (or woman, has within the Sande society, women also carved masks and other objects).
Berz Gallery of African Art acquired this figure from a private American collection. The rarity of the staff becomes even more evident when one looks at auction comparables, of which there are less than a handful, and none of this level of quality and beauty of this example. Of the only known auction comparables, the first is a “messenger’s staff” (71 cm) sold at Christie's, June 2013, Lot 110. It was collected circa 1885, which seems to support the dating of this example to the 19th century; it sold for 5000€ at that sale. It was later put up for auction again, and sold at Sotheby’s for $9600.
The second staff to the left (38 cm), sold at Sotheby’s in 2003 for under $3200 usd. The third staff (47.5 cm) fetched $9000 plus buyer’s premium at Cobb’s Auctionhouse. 2015, Lot 80.
From a detailed analysis of the patina, the surface, signs of wear, and the historical records which provide evidence of the dates in which the comparable staffs left Africa, it is likely that this example dates to prior to or early in the 20th century. A rare find, highly recommended for any collector of objects of beauty and importance.
|Lot ID: 116|
|Low Estimate: $8,000|
|High Estimate: $14,000|
|Next Bid: $4,000|
|Sale ID: 6|
|Sale Date: July 28, 2016|
|Sale Location: Virtual Auction|
|Sale Sponsor: African Artworks from Berz Gallery of African Art|
|Sale Terms: View here|
|Live Bidding Link: SALE CLOSED|
|Location of Origin: Africa|
|Medium/Materials: wood (one piece), stain, oils from shrine application|
|Dimensions: 34" (86.36 cm) height|
|Primary Classification: African Artwork, Ethnographic & Tribal Arts : African Art : Country - Sierra Leone|
|Secondary Classification: African Artwork, Ethnographic & Tribal Arts : African Art : Object Type - Staff|
|About the Mende Tribe and the Sande Society:In Mende villages, social order and structure are regulated through the Poro male and Sande female societies. Mende tribeswomen wear bundu masks to embody idealized female beauty and represent female ancestors. This is one of the only known instances in the African cultural diaspora in which women are the wearers of masks within a societal context, making the piece even more significant. The photograph of a Bundu mask being danced/worn in its indigenous context as is sourced from "African Art in the Cycle of Life", by Roy Sieber and Roslyn A. Walker. Further expertise: "African Art in the Cycle of Life", Roy Sieber and Roslyn A. Walker; “Hair in African Art and Culture” Allridge, Art of the Mende, Homme, "African Masks", Herzog, A History of Art in Africa, Visona, Tribal Arts of Africa, Bacquart|
|Provenance: Ex. Craig de Lora, NY, Ex. Private US Collection; Exhibition History: Vetted by a committee of tribal art experts as antique and authentic and exhibited at New York Tribal Show, 2009|
|Price:||Price on Request|
|Offered By:||CLOSED: African Artworks : 146 Lots : July 28-30|
|Contact:||The Curator's Eye|
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