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Mask

Arts of Africa

Virtually nothing is known about this mask’s use—not even which of the ethnic groups in the region might have made it. Its geometric abstraction has made it an icon of African art for Western audiences, who have linked its planar volumes with the radical forms of early European modernism, particularly Cubism.
MEDIUM Wood, pigment
  • Place Made: Republic of the Congo
  • DATES late 19th century
    DIMENSIONS 14 x 6 x 9 in. (35.6 x 15.2 x 22.9 cm)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 52.160
    CREDIT LINE Frank L. Babbott Fund
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION A wooden mask made up of geometric planes, revealing tool marks on the surface overall. The crescent-shaped face projects outward at the top and comes to a point. Below it, brows arch above the eyes and move downward to a sharp point at the center. A medial ridge moves from the top of the mask to the bridge of the nose. The mask's chin moves slightly upward to a point. Between the overhanging scalloped brows and upturned chin are carved angular features in high relief. Below the brows are two hollowed-out block-shaped eyes. A nose widens gradually as it moves from the bridge of its triangular form to its base. Near the base on the outside of each nostril is a small hole drilled towards the inside of the nose. Below the nose is a small solid block-shaped mouth. The overall surface of the mask has traces of black and red-orange pigment. The left side of the face, unlike the right, has been rubbed with white lime. At the back of the mask is a hollow rectangular opening for the wearer's head with two square openings for his eyes.
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