My comments were based on a quick view of both masks. Gary's mask, in my opinion, has a similar look to pre WWII style Bundu mask I've viewed in person and seen in photographs . The features are closer together, more detailed, a softer flow, more natural and better patina. Hope this answer's your question, not one for giving catalog descriptions.
I agree there was colonial influence even in the 20s, the time Gary believes his mask was created. But I don't think, at that time, there was a major influence on the Traditional Carvers. At least not as much as after WWII, where I would place the creation of your mask. Also, not saying it doesn't exist in earlier creations, but the eye glasses strike me as an outside influence taken on by a new generation of Carvers. And that's based more on conversations with a few early indigenous dealers, than anything I've read. I've seen one or two copies with glass, but they weren't well done. In my humble opinion, your mask was made to be used in a traditional way.
--- On Wed, 3/31/10, Monroe, John W [HIST] <jmonroe@...> wrote:
From: Monroe, John W [HIST] <jmonroe@...>
Subject: RE: [African_Arts] Mende Masks - How Would You Compare These Two ?
To: "African_Arts@yahoogroups.com" <African_Arts@yahoogroups.com>
Date: Wednesday, March 31, 2010, 2:04 PM
> Gary's mask seems to be carved in the more traditional style with less Colonial influence and better patina.
I agree. My sense also is that Gary's mask is clearly older, not only on the basis of patina, but also on the basis of style. Mine has various "naturalistic" touches, especially the nose, cheeks and chin, that appear in much more stylized form on Gary's mask. That stylization, in turn, makes Gary's mask fall much more closely in line with connoisseurs' expectations of what a "good" African object should look like.
Are those naturalistic touches what you mean by "colonial influence," Felix? It's worth remembering, on that score, that if Gary's mask was made in 1921, it was also made under "colonial influence," perhaps even more directly, because in 1921 Sierra Leone was *very much* a British colony. No Mende person would have been unaware of, or untouched by, that basic fact. If anything, it would
perhaps be more correct historically to say that my mask shows "post-colonial influence." I am pretty sure, anyway, that my mask isn't particularly old. It's *certainly* newer than the 1920s, and likely (if Boone's mask is anything to go by) dates from the 50s or 60s at the earliest. Given when and where I bought it, it probably came out of Sierra Leone during the civil war.
From the point of view of a Euro-American connoisseur evaluating the mask according to the esthetic norms of "tribal art," I agree with Felix that Gary's mask is "better," not just in terms of patina but also in terms of the expression, which comes across as "classical" in its peaceful composure. Given what Phillips says about Mende esthetics, they would likely agree that Gary's mask is more beautiful.
At the same time, I'm intrigued by the idea that my mask wasn't made with the intention of being "beautiful." I think, if Gary is right, that it was probably made to be
*funny.* That would help explain the bulbous forehead and bow-shaped mouth, which gives the mask a very different expression from the "classical Mende" helmet masks. If it was a gonde from the beginning, that would also explain the duller patina. Of course it's always difficult to project interpretations like this, but if you get familiar enough with an object form, it *does* become possible to "read" the style to some degree, I think. And, to me anyway, there's definitely a kind of silly brazen-ness about that mouth, when you put it next to the much more demure mouths you see on "classical" Mende masks.
Also, at this point, I should note that I'm pretty sure the mask was made by a sculptor whose "home style" was Mende (not by a faker in Cameroon, for instance). I base this on a comparison of the broad formal outlines of Gary's mask with mine -- in terms of proportions and the rendering of key details (ears, nose) they do seem to have a family
resemblance, even if a few generations have come between them.
--- On Wed, 3/31/10, GARYGLS2000@ aol.com
From: GARYGLS2000@ aol.com
Subject: [African_Arts] Mende Masks - How Would You Compare These Two ?
To: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com
Cc: warish@yahoo. com
Date: Wednesday, March 31, 2010, 7:52 AM
[cid:1.3653483257@ web82207. mail.mud. yahoo.com
John Monroe's Bundu Mask
[cid:2.3653483257@ web82207. mail.mud. yahoo.com
Gary Schulze's Bundu Mask (Collected in
the field in Sierra Leone in 1961 - Carved sometime in the 1920's)