Gabon, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea
|NGIL mask - THIS MASK IS NO LONGER IN MY COLLECTION
The Ngil (sometimes referred to as the gorilla mask) masks were worn by members of a male society of the same name during the initiation of new
members and the persecution of wrong-doers. Masqueraders, clad in raffia costumes and attended by helpers, would materialize in the village
after dark, illuminated by flickering torchlight. Fang masks, such as those worn by itinerant troubadours and for hunting and punishing sorcerers,
are painted white with facial features often outlined in black. Typical are large, elongated masks covered with kaolin and featuring a face that was
usually heart-shaped with a long, fine nose. The Ngil society disappeared with the beginning of the colonization of Gabon in the early 1930's.
Provenance: ex M Forsyth Collection - US
Old and authentic Fang objects of any kind are rare and expensive. Fang objects have been highly venerated by collectors since they were first
introduced to the market in the early 1900's. Paul Guillaume was largely responsible, in my opinion, for the initial fascination by collectors for
Fang objects, and they have steadily remained as very sought after objects and objects that command high prices in the high end market place.
This fact has caused these objects to be made specifically for the collecting market for many, many years. The Fang ngil masks have different
styles and you will see the most recent commercial productions of these types of masks in the form of large, thin masks painted white that are
purely for decorative purposes.
I don't know what to honestly think about the authenticity of this mask. It was field collected by it's previous owner and the mask is in excellent
style for these types of masks in my opinion. I really love the form of the mask whatever the case of it's authenticity may be and I truly enjoy it in
This mask is currently in the exhibition: "Native Arts of the World...At Home in Colorado - The Douglas Society Collects"
|Click on any picture below to see larger version.
|In the spring of 2006 I finally set up a new photo studio on the basement of my house, it was long overdue and I wish I would have done it years ago.
The photo on the left is an example of the photographs that I used to take in my living room under halogen lights and I was never very happy with the
overall quality or color of the photographs. For those of you who have visited my website over the last couple of years you know that this is the type of
photograph that I have had on my website for a while now. The photo on the right is one taken in my new photo studio and I'm really excited about the
quality of the new photographs!
|A similar example below, and other examples for reference
|Merton Simpson Gallery
New York, NY
Size: 18 inches
Photograph by Hugues Dubois in Brussels
Provenance: Ex. Guy Piazzini Collection
A superb Fang Helmet Mask with a prominent quarter sphere
shape forehead, an elongated and concave face of perfect
volumetric symmetry, double semicircle arches of the eye
socket forming a prominent cap beginning above the eyes
extending itself along the cheeks to stop at the chin,
rectangular shape mouth with its pointy teeth, kaolin in the
background reveals several dark painted bands on the
forehad, helmet, eyes arches, cheeks and chin, longitudinal
motifs on the nose and forehead.
|From the Vérité auction in Paris in June of 2006
LINK to online catalog for the Verite auction (it will link to an .exe file, save it to your computer and then open it and you will have the PDF catalog.
LINK to results from the Verite auction
Ngil, Fang mask
Wood covered with a layer of kaolin
Height: 48 cm (19 in.)
Estimate: 1 000 000/1 500 000 euros
Sold for aprox 5 900 000 euros (aprox 6.5 million dollars)
Exhibited and published on numerous occasions,this object is probably the most famous of the Vérité collection. It largely deserves this reputation.
The fact is indisputable: it is an absolute masterpiece of art. Paradoxically it is at once both so classical and so original that it is difficult to compare it with
other masks. Nevertheless, without wanting to seek formal, but only spiritual resemblance it may be estimated that the large mask of the Museum of Berlin
and that in the former Lefèvre collection, now in the French National Collections, are of the same family. Within the restricted corpus of ngil masks, all
authentic as well as indexed, all in all about ten examples for masks of the same large size, the Vérité mask is the most important by the perfection of its
volumes, its ornamentation and its patina. The high forehead and the heart-shaped face are admirably harmonious, on the cheeks the scarifications are
perfectly apposed as well as the line on the forehead and the arch of its eye-brows. (On the scarifications, see Tessmann, Plastik, 1913, pages 262 to
265; idem Dapper, Fang, 1991, pages 228-229). The layers of kaolin indicate repeated use of the mask over a long period of time: an item of this quality
has been kept and preserved carefully. The extreme porosity of the light wood and its oxydation confirm the fact that the object is very old, it dates most
certainly from the end of the 19th or the beginning of the 20th century.
More subjectively speaking, this mask expresses like no other mask of its kind the spirit of Fang art implying the religious spirit and brutal and obscure
power, the very soul of he equatorial forest. Taking into account all Fang art, even considering primitive art as a whole, the ngil masks are, without any
doubt among the rarest and the most coveted. Their rareness is to be seen in direct relation to the myth itself and their forms bordering universal
concerns. Have they not been credited with every possible influence, whether officially established or occulted, in the arts of the 19th century ? Picasso
himself is said to have been under their spell, when he undertook the work for one of his major works, “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon“. Thus, on the occasion
of the 1984 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art of New York, William Rubin confronted the ngil mask of the Vérité Collection with the famous painting
“Tête de Femme“ (1908) by Pablo Picasso. Today it is agreed that the Masters of Negro-African art simply catapulted themselves to the summits of
art before those of the Western world.
In the collection of Marcello Lattari
|Map source: http://www.ethno.unizh.ch/csfconference/files/papers/