On offer from our private collection is this marvelous old bronze mask from the Bamileke peoples of Cameroon. The various ethnic groups throughout the Cameroon region, including the Bamileke, Bamum, & Tikar, are renowned for their skilled & highly imaginative metalwork, & are known to produce some of the most sought after of all African sculptures.
Probably representing royalty, the tribal member or ancestor depicted here bears an expression of elation. Captured in high relief, his well-defined facial features include raised eyebrows, eyes that telescope out of their sockets, a strong, prominent nose, & protruding lips. A decorative striated collar, punctuated by bead-like formations along the bottom rim, underscores the chin, while an incised headband accentuates the brow. Crowning the mask's head is an elaborate coiffure/headdress with multiple winged protuberances & raised 'bead' adornments set within concentric rings. The center loop at the top of the mask suggests this piece may possibly have been used as a hip mask, worn on the ornate belt of a king or other tribal official.
Despite some casting imperfections, this handsome mask is in very good overall condition. With its fairly thin-walled construction, it's not surprising that the lost-wax casting process resulted in some pin-holes in the collar & headdress, as well as a couple of very small holes present in the smooth-surfaced area above the headband. There is native repair to the coiffure (on the upper right side of the mask's coif); & judging by the old patina at the site, inside & out, the repair may have been done at the time of casting.
With the rich, chocolaty-brown tone of the bronze, the mask has achieved a well-developed patina. A striking display.