Description(Probably) Vili (Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo and Angola, Central Africa)
Wood, pigment, metal and fiber
Height: 11-3/4 inches
This well carved mask, with a significant history of publication and public exhibition, comes from the sculpturally rich complex of peoples (Vili, Kongo, Woyo, Yombe) within the Lower Zaire River Region. On stylistic grounds, it is tentatively attributed to the Vili, and probably dates from 1890-1920. The carving is well worn with evidence of minor abrasions, nicks and surface wear, but in excellent condition considering its age and apparent long years of use. Two small painted areas of lower face have been restored, and, on back upper edge, a small piece of wood broken off and held I place by an iron nail.
Masks of this type are known by many names and belong to a men's association. They potentially appeared during initiations of members, at receptions of important visitors, at installations of chiefs, during rituals dealing with community misfortune, and during activities concerning anti-social behavior.
This is a large mask with powerful display presence. It bears a haunting, if purely coincidental, resemblance to certain masks carved by Northwest Coast Native Americans.
Katherine Coryton White collection, before 1983;
Hanus and Kirsten Grosz collection (GA1983.6), 1983-2013.
Frederick S. Wright Art Gallery, University of California, Los Angeles, 1974;
National Museum of Art, Washington, D.C., 1974;
Museum of African Art, New York, 1994;
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, 1994;
University of California, Berkley Art Museum, 1994-5;
Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, Alabama, 1995;
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia, 1995;
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1986, 2005-2010.
R.F. Thompson, African Art in Motion: Icon and Act in the Katherine Coryton White Collection, Los Angeles, 1974, n.p., pl. 177;
R.F. Thompson, Face of the Gods: Art and Altars of Africa and the African Americas, catalogue I, New York, 1993, n.p.;
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas: Private Indianapolis Collections, exhibition catalogue, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1986, n.p., fig. 12.
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