DescriptionSenufo (Côte d'Ivoire, Mali or Burkina Faso, Western Africa)
Wood and metal
Height: 60 inches
Bird imagery is related to the administration of the Poro association among the Senufo. The Poro association functions as the governmental and judicial body within the community and also is responsible for many ritual functions including the veneration of ancestors. Large headdresses would be processed from the sacred forest grove into the village during important occasions such as initiations or funerals of Poro members. The weight and size of the mask would have required extreme physical strength and balance from the performer to wear. He would have been further supported by masking assistants. The hornbill is viewed to be the king of the birds and is seen as representative of intelligence. The curved beak touching the rounded stomach suggests fertility.
This piece is in reasonably good condition considering its age. There is minor damage to the tail and along the wings. The head has a large crack behind the proper left eye which has been repaired with metal staples. A subtle saw-tooth decoration runs from the crown of the head along the beak.
The head and beak create a graceful arc offset by the more angular nature of the wings. The overall presentation creates an interesting visual juxtaposition between the straight lines to the more delicate curve. The overall construction is complex and pleasing to the eye.
The wings have been expanded by the addition of two planks of wood which are attached with metal staples. On top of each wing sits another small bird. The original pigment has been entirely lost and the wood is extremely weathered and distressed suggesting considerable age.
The size and art appeal of these large Senufo birds has made them a favorite subject for workshops in Africa which produce decorative carvings for export. However, close examination of the present example demonstrates how clearly it is differentiated from those made-for-sale versions. Authentic old examples like this one are extremely rare.
Benjamin Bernstein collection, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Please Note: This lot will be accompanied by a Letter of Expertise (pictured below) from Michael Kan, former curator of the African Art Collection at the Detroit Museum of Art.
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