2 Wooden Masks

Discussion in 'Tribal Art' started by kardinalisimo, Jul 8, 2016.

  1. kardinalisimo

    kardinalisimo Well-Known Member

    Any suggestions on age, origin etc..?




  2. GaleriaGila

    GaleriaGila Hola, y'all!

  3. Taupou

    Taupou Well-Known Member

    I agree, the first one is Fang, from Gabon. But the other one is also from Gabon. The slit eyes, "heart shaped" brows, scarification marks on cheeks, and brown chin/beard, identify it as a traditional Vuvi mask. Because it is painted white (the color associated with death) it is an ancestor mask that appears at funerals.

    It's hard to determine age just from a photo, but I'd say mid-20th century. Fang masks are often made for sale, but the Vuvi masks are not so common. This one at least is a traditional style
  4. kardinalisimo

    kardinalisimo Well-Known Member

    Thanks. So they are Fang Ngil types. From what I read authentic Ngil mask are rare and expensive. But I am finding a lot of what are claimed to be authentic masks selling for just hundreds and less.

    And then you have a $7.5 mil piece:

    a $970,000 piece

    I don't think that what I have are something special but wonder if I should seek professional opinion or just list them. They have some damages and repairs.

    By the way, the white finish is not quite paint, looks like clay/kaolin?
  5. Taupou

    Taupou Well-Known Member

    That's one of the problems with selling African masks. First, they appeal to a rather limited market. And second, the ones that get the high prices are those with irrefutable provenance, where you know when, and by whom, they were collected, and what notable collector has owned them.

    Even when a mask is carved by a traditional carver, and represents a "known" cultural mask, if it is recent, and carved for sale, it's probably going to sell in the $100-300 range. Without the provenance, it's generally just a mask, not in the general "airport/tourist" category, but probably not in the high-end auction category.

    And I guess I didn't make it clear. The Vuvi and Fang are two separate tribes. The first mask is Fang, the second one Vuvi.

    refers to a Fang secret society, which wore the masks during initiation ceremonies, and during judiciary functions, where punishment was administered to those who violated social norms.
  6. kardinalisimo

    kardinalisimo Well-Known Member

    It was clear about the Vuvi and Fang. I posted a bit before I saw your reply and then just added the white finish part.
    So, basically, two identical masks, same period, can sell with a huge difference in the values. One on Ebay with no documentation for $100, and the other with provenance on Christies for $100000?
    Is not there a way an expert to determine real or repro, the time frame of production etc?
    I bet whoever paid $7.5 mil for the mask did it because it was said that it inspired Picasso.
  7. Taupou

    Taupou Well-Known Member

    The big difference also, is whether the mask was actually danced, or used culturally, which is usually part of the provenance.

    Replicas of old masks can fool even the experts. Artificial aging is common, which makes accurate dating difficult. When labor is cheap, mask makers can afford to pay someone (usually a child, or otherwise unemployable adult) to spend literally years rubbing a mask to give it the patina indicative of actual use. I don't know of any experts who would attempt to authenticate a mask as old and culturally-used, without actual hands-on examination.
  8. GaleriaGila

    GaleriaGila Hola, y'all!

    Thank you both.
  9. kardinalisimo

    kardinalisimo Well-Known Member

  10. Taupou

    Taupou Well-Known Member

    I probably wouldn't call the item in the post 9 link a "mask." It's more a decorative wall hanging, based on a Senufo Kpelie mask. It does resemble a Kpelie mask, with the elongated nose, and the protrusions on the sides, but that's about it. Kpelie masks are carved from wood, and usually have a smaller, more delicate, form. They do, after all, represent ancestral feminine beauty.

    But yes, I'd agree, it's a recent, decorative, art object, based on the actual style of a Senufo Kpelie mask.

    (Just as an aside, a Kpelie mask should not be confused with a Kpelle mask. Kpelle is a tribe in Liberia, Kpelie is the name of the mask made by the Senufo tribe of Ivory Coast.)

    I wouldn't say to stay away from African masks, necessarily. The good ones are a continuing cultural art form that has had influence on art world-wide. I'd just say to avoid the mass-produced "fantasy" knock-offs that have no connection with a traditional, actual cultural mask. And the chances of finding a mask that sells for thousands and up, is about the same as finding an original Picasso. It does happen, but the odds aren't good.

    If buying for personal use, buy what you love and want to have around. If buying for resale, first buy a couple good books on African masks, so you learn to recognize what's authentic (not necessarily old or danced, but at least related to a specific culture and tradition) and then buy at a price where you can afford to keep the mask if it doesn't sell.
  11. Aquitaine

    Aquitaine Is What It IS! But NEVER BORED!

    In a learning curve here today!!! SO much informative information from you both!!!
    Thank you!!!!!
  12. kardinalisimo

    kardinalisimo Well-Known Member

    By they way, what do you mean by "danced"? Being used in actual rituals?
  13. Taupou

    Taupou Well-Known Member

    Yes, actually used in the tribal culture, ceremonies, or dances.
  14. komokwa

    komokwa The Truth is out there...!

    And that's hard to prove but easy to fake................:sour:
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