West Africa, Liberia, Bassa people, ca. early 20th century CE. A fine example of a dark wooden mask in the classic Bassa style, with the face so deeply set from the brow that it appears almost inverted, the eyes sunken back into the head while the mouth and chin project outwards. The mouth is small, round, and juts outward. An elaborate incised coiffure gives the appearance of thick braids that flow back from the hairline. A rich patina is on the surface and the proportions of this stunning mask make it visually fascinating. Size: 6.7″ W x 11.55″ H (17 cm x 29.3 cm); 17.35″ H (44.1 cm) on included custom stand.
Liberian dancers often wear intricately carved masks like this one during ritual dance performances, the masks thought to channel spirits whom they were carved to represent. This mask was made as part of the men’s No association, and was designed to show the desirable traits that women should possess. It would have been attached by the openings around its back to a large, woven headdress that would fully cover the head and shoulders of the dancer who would wear it.
Provenance: private New York, New York, USA collection; ex-private New York, USA collection
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Rich patina on surface with light deposits. Really nice condition for its age, with some losses around the back edges and very small losses on the top of the head.