Exceptional Bembe Janus Helmet Mask, Democratic Republic of the Congo

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Lot 8
Exceptional Bembe Janus Helmet Mask, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Sold for US$ 8,750 inc. premium

African & Oceanic Art

2 Dec 2015, 10:00 PST

Los Angeles

Exceptional Bembe Janus Helmet Mask, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Wood, kaolin, pigments
height 19in (48.2cm)

Deeply hollowed with each face dominated by large, oval, concave eyes with raised star pattern and central projection, a small circular mouth set on each side between the eyes, a central ridge on top running between the forehead area and projections on top, each pierced for attachment of the feathers and quills (now lost); fine dark brown patina with kaolin highlights.

PROVENANCE
Henri Kamer, Paris and New York
Dolores Kamer Budd

"Throughout southern D.R.C. and Angola, brightly painted and decorated masks are used to mark the transition to adult life. During the initiation period, which may last a year or more, adolescent boys are separated from the village and made to undergo a series of ordeals, including circumcision, designed to measure their strength and courage. These tests often culminate in the boys' symbolic death as children and rebirth as men. The Janus form of the Bembe alunga society mask, crowned with a headdress of feathers and porcupine quills, is worn to celebrate the return of its most recent initiates to village life." (Metropolitan Museum of Art, WEB, nd.)

A closely related mask is on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Inv. No. 1979.206.243).
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