Among these materials, ivory is the most important. An ivory mask is representing the founder of the community and the number of past generations from him is known by the group. Such a mask is exhibited and never worn : it is indeed a work of art in the Western meaning of that wording. It is unique for a community and therefore it is extremely rare.
The Lega tribe is certainly the one that has best mastered the art of ivory. In addition to the full scale mask, many small replicas that may be called masquettes were produced for the need of the initiatory liturgy. These masquettes were held in the palm of the hand.
In the 1930s, the Lega ivory masks marveled in due course the pioneering connoisseurs who were exploring the depth and variety of African arts. One of these masks, abundantly exhibited, described and photographed at that time, has just resurfaced. It is estimated € 1M for sale by Sotheby's in Paris on June 22, lot 41.
The quality of the patina had been identified but the piece had been only photographed in black and white. Its rediscovery confirms that this is a masterpiece : amateurs highly appreciate the figures in good condition that provide the evidence of an intense tribal use.
Its deep patina in a superb color mixing brown, red and orange was performed by a repetitive anointing with pigmented oils. This organic layer had a magical role. This specimen bears the trace of withdrawals that had been taken for therapeutic purposes in an interesting case of the intervention of the ancestor for a real assistance to the new follower.
SOLD for € 3.7M including premium
Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's :