Gabon, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea
Examples for reference
Merton Simpson Gallery
New York, NY

Fang Mask

Fang Mask
North Gabon
Size: 18 inches
Inv# 8620
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
Lot 193
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.
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