On offer from our personal collection is this distinctive old face mask from the Dogon peoples of Mali. One of our first acquisitions of ethnographic art, we were fortunate to acquire this piece in the early 1970s from private collectors/dealers who left their native Africa to journey to the U.S. to exhibit the remarkable tribal antiquities field-collected by their father, who had remained in Africa. We believe this piece dates back to the 1940s or '50s.
With its thin-walled construction, this well-carved mask is tall, rather slender, & exhibits classic features. Incised scarifications create multiple patterns across the face, as well as on the torso & arms of the nommo superstructure perched atop the mask. Set in under the brow, open triangles form the eyes of the mask, while the nose takes on the traditional 'arrow' shape used by the Dogon in much of their carvings, not least of which is the nommo figure that adorns this piece. Zoomorphic ears frame the upper brow of the mask's face. The powerful, crouching nommo superstructure bears hermaphroditic characteristics with its breasts & bearded face. Attachment holes perforate the side-rims of the piece.
With a fine, well-developed patina, the mask shows age- & use-related wear. Despite some imperfections in the wood, including old insect damage (arrested), scrapes & abrasions, dry age-cracks, & a few old chips (including those along the bottom & back rims), the mask is in good overall condition. A small area to the left on the mask's upper brow has worn through, forming a small, irregular hole. At just over 24-inches in height, this imposing piece makes a powerful, compelling display, & would be an excellent addition to any serious collection.