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Re: [African_Arts] AUCTION... Skinner... Bobo or Tussian?

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  • Lee Rubinstein
    Mike: A quick search of attributions relating to metal objects from the Bobo or Tussian leads inevitably to conflict and/or ambiguity among the attributions
    Message 1 of 11 , May 4, 2008
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      Mike:

      A quick search of attributions relating to metal objects from the Bobo or Tussian leads inevitably to conflict and/or ambiguity among the attributions given.  No one person emerges that would be able to illuminate the question clearly:  Marie-Therese Brincard ?    Eugenia Herbert? Once more I can only address such a question most generally and only briefly (we'll see on that latter point...).

      I think your question reflects a broader question regarding the way in which cultural attributions are assigned to objects, particularly in the absence of clear documentation of production, usage and collection.  Overly specific attributions are seemingly too often based on insufficient specific or accurate information.  Attributions often reflect more what is currently known to researchers than what is true in indigenous contexts.  As (if and when) a clearer understanding is reached on the relationship between groups, so too does the cultural attribution change.  One good example is the change which has occurred in the classification of Luba vs Hemba objects, for instance.  More specific attributions that reflect differences and variations among Yoruba sub-groups is another illuminative instance.  I am moved to recall once more the discussion on the Tetela attribution...  

      What is generally true in most fields of African material culture is especially so for metal works!  With regard to the Bobo vs Tussian attribution, one clue may derive from the geographical clustering of these groups.  Although the two peoples speak primary languages (and dialects thereof) from different trees -- Mande and Voltaic/Gur respectively, members of both cultures do occupy the same region of southwestern Burkina Faso.  Most notably perhaps in the Houet Province are both Toussian and Bobo (Bobo-Jula, Bobo-Dioula or Zara...) inhabitants.  These two groups are just two of dozens of cultures and cultural influences in the region.  

      So... there are questions regarding whether the Bobo or Toussian (see, even the spellings are variable!) attribution refers to the maker, the user, the person from whom or the region in which the object was collected, etc.  To illuminate further the complexity in a Burkinabe context, I reprint here the passages I cited from Christopher Roy in Message 2835.  To add to the confusion here, I am even quoting myself!  

      "Another significant question (or complex of questions) pertains to the issue of where misidentification and misrepresentation originate.  As committed as I am to the pursuit of Truth -- and to the clarification of which Truth is being defended at any given moment, I can't help but to seek an understanding of the motivations behind reproduction and to underline once more the ambiguities of intent which are often attached to the creation of reproductions.  Among the most interesting situations to consider in this regard is the discussion of the Konaté blacksmith clan provided by Christopher Roy in the essay "Centers of Style of African Sculpture" in Art and Life in Africa:  Selections from the Stanley Collection, Exhibitions of 1985 and 1992.  Roy recounts the history of these carvers now residing in Ouri, Burkina Faso.  The Konatés in Ouri are of Mande origin and migrated in preceding generations from the Mandé area of Mali to Ouri, Burkina Faso via Kapo (a Bobo village) and Ouakara (a Bwa-Marka-Dafing town) and continue to carve masks in Ouri for mask-owning clans of neighboring villages of the Nuna, Marka Dafing, Ko and Bwa.  (One member of the family migrated further to Nouna and carves for Bwa and Bobo-Fing clients in that area of northwestern Burkina Faso).  The point to which I am leading is illustrated through these passages:

      "'Not only does the Konaté family in Ouri produce objects for five major neighboring groups, they also produce large numbers of masks for the tourist trade in Ouagadougou.  They refer to these as 'copies,' and are able to distinguish clearly between traditional masks for use by local villagers, and tourist 'copies to be sold in Ouagadougou.  They distinguish between them on the basis of style, quality, and whether or not the necessary sacrifices were done during the carving process -- sacrifices which make a traditional mask function effectively.'"  (p. 5)

      "'The active Konaté sculptors are able to distinguish the characteristics of the five styles in which they carve, and will point to the foliate patterns that radiate from the eyes of a Nuna mask, or the diamond-shaped mouth of may Ko masks, as characteristics of a particular tribal style that must be included to satisfy their clients.  Nevertheless, their work is very homogenous in terms of proportions, composition, color and technique... few casual spectators can tell them apart.  In the past six years, numerous scholars of African art, involved with public or private collections that include masks from the area, have called me to seek help identifying the styles of groups in this area.  Although the Konaté can identify the styles they carve, the characteristic patterns are so subtly different that few people outside of the area can distinguish Nuna masks from Ko or Bwa masks.'"

      "'It is not unusual for a family or workshop to produce masks for a number of communities spread over a broad area belonging to a single ethnic group.  This has occurred frequently in Africa, and elsewhere in the world...  It is far more unusual, however, to find a single workshop producing sculpture for five different ethnic groups, in styles which, though identifiable, by the carvers and owners, are so homogenous that no one else can tell them apart... Perhaps historians of African art should now ask if objects in similar or identical styles were produced in 'Centers of Style,' where artists of one ethnic group produced art for all of their neighbors.  Perhaps it is even more important to cease attempting to break down large regional styles into finer and finer tribal styles, and to recognize that artists in Africa are capable of producing work not only in their own style, but in the styles of their neighbors.  It is clear that, at least in central Burkina Faso, we cannot tell which group produced an object by analyzing fine style characteristics.'"(p. 7)

      "These passages illuminate the extreme complexities in achieving a masterful command of the criteria upon which to posit accurate identification and assessment of object authenticity even through a well-informed visual assessment of style.  Further, the assumptions made regarding the authorship of works as a criterion of establishing authenticity also appears rather complicated.  Too, as I have cited this example in previous discussions, the fact that ritual masks and tourist masks are created by the same hand, trebles the ambiguity and difficulty in attributing authenticity and cultural origin to many an object.  So, beyond even the alleged subterfuge of misrepresentation, we have the challenge of the more subtle subterfuge of misidentification derived from an over-stated mastery in distinguishing the features which constitute assessments of authenticity.  This range of ambiguities does not even take into account the judgments which are made regarding the objects produced by the same hands to fulfill both the requirements of ritual use and commercial demand!  Further, I would also like to point out that the misrepresentation often does not originate with the carver but rather may be created through various levels of conspiratorial collusion at market levels to add value to works traded (sold, auctioned, donated).  As Dr. Roy indicates, efforts are often made to seek "expert" opinion to support accurate identification and authentication;  yet, I am inclined to wonder about the relative frequency -- and accessibility -- of such fastidious referencing.  I would imagine that assessments are far more often defaulted to less authoritative sources than the indigenous sources -- even the creators themselves, when possible, who might best provide the highest level of scrutiny and commentary with regard to ritual authenticity."

      So, I think that, generally speaking, it is important to weigh specific attributions in proper correspondence to the amount of confirmable supporting detail which is provided to support the attribution.  In the absence of such, I think it is often more productive to refer to a circumscribable geographical area of origin and then to see whether one can find data to support increasingly specific attributions.

      For those of you who have read this far, I offer a reward -- especially if you are interested in metals.  Although they do not necessarily include direct references either to the metal equestrians previously queried or Mike's Bobo-Tussian metal, they do offer a wide variety of well-illustrated on-line resources on African metals (some previously referenced in earlier discussions, like a Simpson's "clip show"):

      *Tom Joyce's "Life Force at the Anvil:  The Blacksmith's Art from Africa" from Art Metal:    http://www.artmetal.com/project/Features/Africa/
      Also viewable as slide sets beginning with:  http://www.artmetal.com/project/Features/Africa/page1.htm.

      **Allen Roberts and Evan Maurer's "Iron, Master of Them All" .pdf:  http://sdrc.lib.uiowa.edu/ceras/iron/iron.pdf
      [.html version without images:  http://sdrc.lib.uiowa.edu/ceras/iron/index.html.]

      ***NEW:  Link to the "African Metalworking Collection" of The Canadian Museum of Making:
      Click on Link to African Metalworking Collection.

      Lee


      On May 4, 2008, at 1:38 PM, lokaart@... wrote:

      I note that Skinner's lot 115 is listed as 'Bobo (?)'. I have a similar item, bought from a reputable London dealer, which was classed as being Tussian. There is also another similar piece depicted on page 126 of Robbins & Nooter 'African Art in American Collections' (1989) which is also described as being Tussian.
       
      Mike Yates

    • M.E.F.
      Lee, Of all your incredibly well researched and informative posts, this was the one that surpassed them all. I shall keep it saved. Thanks, M ... From: Lee
      Message 2 of 11 , May 4, 2008
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        Lee,
        Of all your incredibly well researched and informative posts, this was the one that surpassed them all. I shall keep it saved. Thanks, M

        ----- Original Message ----
        From: Lee Rubinstein <LeeRubinstein@...>
        To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Sunday, May 4, 2008 11:23:30 PM
        Subject: Re: [African_Arts] AUCTION... Skinner... Bobo or Tussian?

        Mike:


        A quick search of attributions relating to metal objects from the Bobo or Tussian leads inevitably to conflict and/or ambiguity among the attributions given.  No one person emerges that would be able to illuminate the question clearly:  Marie-Therese Brincard ?    Eugenia Herbert? Once more I can only address such a question most generally and only briefly (we'll see on that latter point...).

        I think your question reflects a broader question regarding the way in which cultural attributions are assigned to objects, particularly in the absence of clear documentation of production, usage and collection.  Overly specific attributions are seemingly too often based on insufficient specific or accurate information.  Attributions often reflect more what is currently known to researchers than what is true in indigenous contexts.  As (if and when) a clearer understanding is reached on the relationship between groups, so too does the cultural attribution change.  One good example is the change which has occurred in the classification of Luba vs Hemba objects, for instance.  More specific attributions that reflect differences and variations among Yoruba sub-groups is another illuminative instance.  I am moved to recall once more the discussion on the Tetela attribution. ..  

        What is generally true in most fields of African material culture is especially so for metal works!  With regard to the Bobo vs Tussian attribution, one clue may derive from the geographical clustering of these groups.  Although the two peoples speak primary languages (and dialects thereof) from different trees -- Mande and Voltaic/Gur respectively, members of both cultures do occupy the same region of southwestern Burkina Faso.  Most notably perhaps in the Houet Province are both Toussian and Bobo (Bobo-Jula, Bobo-Dioula or Zara...) inhabitants.  These two groups are just two of dozens of cultures and cultural influences in the region.  

        So... there are questions regarding whether the Bobo or Toussian (see, even the spellings are variable!) attribution refers to the maker, the user, the person from whom or the region in which the object was collected, etc.  To illuminate further the complexity in a Burkinabe context, I reprint here the passages I cited from Christopher Roy in Message 2835.  To add to the confusion here, I am even quoting myself!  

        "Another significant question (or complex of questions) pertains to the issue of where misidentification and misrepresentation originate.  As committed as I am to the pursuit of Truth -- and to the clarification of which Truth is being defended at any given moment, I can't help but to seek an understanding of the motivations behind reproduction and to underline once more the ambiguities of intent which are often attached to the creation of reproductions.  Among the most interesting situations to consider in this regard is the discussion of the Konaté blacksmith clan provided by Christopher Roy in the essay "Centers of Style of African Sculpture" in Art and Life in Africa:  Selections from the Stanley Collection, Exhibitions of 1985 and 1992.  Roy recounts the history of these carvers now residing in Ouri, Burkina Faso.  The Konatés in Ouri are of Mande origin and migrated in preceding generations from the Mandé area of Mali to Ouri, Burkina Faso via Kapo (a Bobo village) and Ouakara (a Bwa-Marka-Dafing town) and continue to carve masks in Ouri for mask-owning clans of neighboring villages of the Nuna, Marka Dafing, Ko and Bwa.  (One member of the family migrated further to Nouna and carves for Bwa and Bobo-Fing clients in that area of northwestern Burkina Faso).  The point to which I am leading is illustrated through these passages:

        "'Not only does the Konaté family in Ouri produce objects for five major neighboring groups, they also produce large numbers of masks for the tourist trade in Ouagadougou.  They refer to these as 'copies,' and are able to distinguish clearly between traditional masks for use by local villagers, and tourist 'copies to be sold in Ouagadougou.  They distinguish between them on the basis of style, quality, and whether or not the necessary sacrifices were done during the carving process -- sacrifices which make a traditional mask function effectively.'"  (p. 5)

        "'The active Konaté sculptors are able to distinguish the characteristics of the five styles in which they carve, and will point to the foliate patterns that radiate from the eyes of a Nuna mask, or the diamond-shaped mouth of may Ko masks, as characteristics of a particular tribal style that must be included to satisfy their clients.  Nevertheless, their work is very homogenous in terms of proportions, composition, color and technique... few casual spectators can tell them apart.  In the past six years, numerous scholars of African art, involved with public or private collections that include masks from the area, have called me to seek help identifying the styles of groups in this area.  Although the Konaté can identify the styles they carve, the characteristic patterns are so subtly different that few people outside of the area can distinguish Nuna masks from Ko or Bwa masks.'"

        "'It is not unusual for a family or workshop to produce masks for a number of communities spread over a broad area belonging to a single ethnic group.  This has occurred frequently in Africa, and elsewhere in the world...  It is far more unusual, however, to find a single workshop producing sculpture for five different ethnic groups, in styles which, though identifiable, by the carvers and owners, are so homogenous that no one else can tell them apart... Perhaps historians of African art should now ask if objects in similar or identical styles were produced in 'Centers of Style,' where artists of one ethnic group produced art for all of their neighbors.  Perhaps it is even more important to cease attempting to break down large regional styles into finer and finer tribal styles, and to recognize that artists in Africa are capable of producing work not only in their own style, but in the styles of their neighbors.  It is clear that, at least in central Burkina Faso, we cannot tell which group produced an object by analyzing fine style characteristics.'"(p. 7)

        "These passages illuminate the extreme complexities in achieving a masterful command of the criteria upon which to posit accurate identification and assessment of object authenticity even through a well-informed visual assessment of style.  Further, the assumptions made regarding the authorship of works as a criterion of establishing authenticity also appears rather complicated.  Too, as I have cited this example in previous discussions, the fact that ritual masks and tourist masks are created by the same hand, trebles the ambiguity and difficulty in attributing authenticity and cultural origin to many an object.  So, beyond even the alleged subterfuge of misrepresentation, we have the challenge of the more subtle subterfuge of misidentification derived from an over-stated mastery in distinguishing the features which constitute assessments of authenticity.  This range of ambiguities does not even take into account the judgments which are made regarding the objects produced by the same hands to fulfill both the requirements of ritual use and commercial demand!  Further, I would also like to point out that the misrepresentation often does not originate with the carver but rather may be created through various levels of conspiratorial collusion at market levels to add value to works traded (sold, auctioned, donated).  As Dr. Roy indicates, efforts are often made to seek "expert" opinion to support accurate identification and authentication;  yet, I am inclined to wonder about the relative frequency -- and accessibility -- of such fastidious referencing.  I would imagine that assessments are far more often defaulted to less authoritative sources than the indigenous sources -- even the creators themselves, when possible, who might best provide the highest level of scrutiny and commentary with regard to ritual authenticity. "

        So, I think that, generally speaking, it is important to weigh specific attributions in proper correspondence to the amount of confirmable supporting detail which is provided to support the attribution.  In the absence of such, I think it is often more productive to refer to a circumscribable geographical area of origin and then to see whether one can find data to support increasingly specific attributions.

        For those of you who have read this far, I offer a reward -- especially if you are interested in metals.  Although they do not necessarily include direct references either to the metal equestrians previously queried or Mike's Bobo-Tussian metal, they do offer a wide variety of well-illustrated on-line resources on African metals (some previously referenced in earlier discussions, like a Simpson's "clip show"):

        *Tom Joyce's "Life Force at the Anvil:  The Blacksmith's Art from Africa" from Art Metal:    http://www.artmetal .com/project/ Features/ Africa/
        Also viewable as slide sets beginning with:  http://www.artmetal .com/project/ Features/ Africa/page1. htm.

        **Allen Roberts and Evan Maurer's "Iron, Master of Them All" .pdf:  http://sdrc. lib.uiowa. edu/ceras/ iron/iron. pdf
        [.html version without images:  http://sdrc. lib.uiowa. edu/ceras/ iron/index. html.]

        ***NEW:  Link to the "African Metalworking Collection" of The Canadian Museum of Making:
        Click on Link to African Metalworking Collection.

        Lee


        On May 4, 2008, at 1:38 PM, lokaart@aol. com wrote:

        I note that Skinner's lot 115 is listed as 'Bobo (?)'. I have a similar item, bought from a reputable London dealer, which was classed as being Tussian. There is also another similar piece depicted on page 126 of Robbins & Nooter 'African Art in American Collections' (1989) which is also described as being Tussian.
         
        Mike Yates



        Be a better friend, newshound, and know-it-all with Yahoo! Mobile. Try it now.
      • lokaart@aol.com
        Lee, thank you for your prompt and, as usual, thorough comments on the Skinner figure. When I first read Christopher Roy s essay in Art & Life in Africa I
        Message 3 of 11 , May 5, 2008
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          Lee,
           
          thank you for your prompt and, as usual, thorough comments on the Skinner figure. When I first read Christopher Roy's essay in 'Art & Life in Africa' I was fascinated and amazed that such 'style centres' should exist, having previously been brought up on the idea of 'one tribe, one style'. And I agree that we can no longer be so certain as to the origin of African items.
              One other point, if I may. I have had my Tussian/Bobo figure for over 15 years and, in all that time, have been unable to find any literature relating to the usage of such items. Is there any such literature? And, if so, can any member point me in the right direction, please.
           
          Mike Yates
        • stellatebronze
          Hello all, I was away for the weekend and have come back to find so many postings! I would like to mention that the person most qualified to comment on Voltaic
          Message 4 of 11 , May 5, 2008
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            Hello all, I was away for the weekend and have come back to find so
            many postings!
            I would like to mention that the person most qualified to comment
            on Voltaic brass-casting has just died this year. That was Timothy F
            Garrard an english barrister who devoted his career not so much to
            law but to studying the history of the gold-trade, gold-weights and
            brass-casting in Ghana, Upper Volta and Cote D'Ivoire. He wrote his
            dissertation (UCLA) on BRASS-CASTING AMONG THE FRA FRA
            (Ghana/Burkina Faso), and had a feature article in Brincard's
            catalog THE ART OF METAL IN AFRICA. . A list of his many
            publications can be searched on the Smithsonian's Database at
            www.siris.si.edu. Other references featuring Voltaic brass work
            include EARTH AND ORE , and an excellent private publication from
            Germany by Wilfried Glar: DIE MATERIALSIERT KULTUR DER ETHNIEN DER
            VOLTA REGION (2006).
            My feeling is that the so called Tussian/Bobo brass figure in the
            Skinner auction is not authentic, neither in the styling or the
            patina. Check-out ART OF UPPER VOLTA FROM THE COLLECTION OF MAURICE
            BONNEFOY (exhibition catalog Aug 1976 Univ Texas) or the more recent
            LAND OF THE FLYING MASK to see examples of very fine examples
            Voltaic brass-work. I have seen quite a few auction catalogs which
            feature in-authentic metal-work offerings unfortunately. Indeed, the
            online Canadian exhibit that Lee referenced sufers from the same
            defect: they have not been able to filter out very clear inauthentic
            items for public viewing which gives these pieces the ostensible
            cachet of authenticity they do not deserve.
            But let me salute Lee's excellent essay on the difficulty of
            assigning an attribution of a particular piece to a particular group
            without very clear and precise collection data- this is very true
            for brass-work from the Voltaic area- even for authentic items- much
            less questionable pieces.
            I will not make a separate posting, but let me mention also that
            the brass horseman figure (mentioned in different post) is another
            item "made for trade" as people say- very characteristic of pieces
            coming out of Cameroon.
            regards, SB.

            --- In African_Arts@yahoogroups.com, Lee Rubinstein
            <LeeRubinstein@...> wrote:
            >
            > Mike:
            >
            > A quick search of attributions relating to metal objects from the
            > Bobo or Tussian leads inevitably to conflict and/or ambiguity
            among
            > the attributions given. No one person emerges that would be able
            to
            > illuminate the question clearly: Marie-Therese Brincard ?
            Eugenia
            > Herbert? Once more I can only address such a question most
            generally
            > and only briefly (we'll see on that latter point...).
            >
            > I think your question reflects a broader question regarding the
            way
            > in which cultural attributions are assigned to objects,
            particularly
            > in the absence of clear documentation of production, usage and
            > collection. Overly specific attributions are seemingly too often
            > based on insufficient specific or accurate information.
            Attributions
            > often reflect more what is currently known to researchers than
            what
            > is true in indigenous contexts. As (if and when) a clearer
            > understanding is reached on the relationship between groups, so
            too
            > does the cultural attribution change. One good example is the
            change
            > which has occurred in the classification of Luba vs Hemba
            objects,
            > for instance. More specific attributions that reflect
            differences
            > and variations among Yoruba sub-groups is another illuminative
            > instance. I am moved to recall once more the discussion on the
            > Tetela attribution...
            >
            > What is generally true in most fields of African material culture
            is
            > especially so for metal works! With regard to the Bobo vs
            Tussian
            > attribution, one clue may derive from the geographical clustering
            of
            > these groups. Although the two peoples speak primary languages
            (and
            > dialects thereof) from different trees -- Mande and Voltaic/Gur
            > respectively, members of both cultures do occupy the same region
            of
            > southwestern Burkina Faso. Most notably perhaps in the Houet
            > Province are both Toussian and Bobo (Bobo-Jula, Bobo-Dioula or
            > Zara...) inhabitants. These two groups are just two of dozens of
            > cultures and cultural influences in the region.
            >
            > So... there are questions regarding whether the Bobo or Toussian
            > (see, even the spellings are variable!) attribution refers to the
            > maker, the user, the person from whom or the region in which the
            > object was collected, etc. To illuminate further the complexity
            in a
            > Burkinabe context, I reprint here the passages I cited from
            > Christopher Roy in Message 2835. To add to the confusion here, I
            am
            > even quoting myself!
            >
            > "Another significant question (or complex of questions) pertains
            to
            > the issue of where misidentification and misrepresentation
            > originate. As committed as I am to the pursuit of Truth -- and
            to
            > the clarification of which Truth is being defended at any given
            > moment, I can't help but to seek an understanding of the
            motivations
            > behind reproduction and to underline once more the ambiguities of
            > intent which are often attached to the creation of
            reproductions.
            > Among the most interesting situations to consider in this regard
            is
            > the discussion of the Konaté blacksmith clan provided by
            Christopher
            > Roy in the essay "Centers of Style of African Sculpture" in Art
            and
            > Life in Africa: Selections from the Stanley Collection,
            Exhibitions
            > of 1985 and 1992. Roy recounts the history of these carvers now
            > residing in Ouri, Burkina Faso. The Konatés in Ouri are of Mande
            > origin and migrated in preceding generations from the Mandé area
            of
            > Mali to Ouri, Burkina Faso via Kapo (a Bobo village) and Ouakara
            (a
            > Bwa-Marka-Dafing town) and continue to carve masks in Ouri for
            mask-
            > owning clans of neighboring villages of the Nuna, Marka Dafing,
            Ko
            > and Bwa. (One member of the family migrated further to Nouna and
            > carves for Bwa and Bobo-Fing clients in that area of northwestern
            > Burkina Faso). The point to which I am leading is illustrated
            > through these passages:
            >
            > "'Not only does the Konaté family in Ouri produce objects for
            five
            > major neighboring groups, they also produce large numbers of
            masks
            > for the tourist trade in Ouagadougou. They refer to these as
            > 'copies,' and are able to distinguish clearly between traditional
            > masks for use by local villagers, and tourist 'copies to be sold
            in
            > Ouagadougou. They distinguish between them on the basis of
            style,
            > quality, and whether or not the necessary sacrifices were done
            during
            > the carving process -- sacrifices which make a traditional mask
            > function effectively.'" (p. 5)
            >
            > "'The active Konaté sculptors are able to distinguish the
            > characteristics of the five styles in which they carve, and will
            > point to the foliate patterns that radiate from the eyes of a
            Nuna
            > mask, or the diamond-shaped mouth of may Ko masks, as
            characteristics
            > of a particular tribal style that must be included to satisfy
            their
            > clients. Nevertheless, their work is very homogenous in terms of
            > proportions, composition, color and technique... few casual
            > spectators can tell them apart. In the past six years, numerous
            > scholars of African art, involved with public or private
            collections
            > that include masks from the area, have called me to seek help
            > identifying the styles of groups in this area. Although the
            Konaté
            > can identify the styles they carve, the characteristic patterns
            are
            > so subtly different that few people outside of the area can
            > distinguish Nuna masks from Ko or Bwa masks.'"
            >
            > "'It is not unusual for a family or workshop to produce masks for
            a
            > number of communities spread over a broad area belonging to a
            single
            > ethnic group. This has occurred frequently in Africa, and
            elsewhere
            > in the world... It is far more unusual, however, to find a
            single
            > workshop producing sculpture for five different ethnic groups, in
            > styles which, though identifiable, by the carvers and owners, are
            so
            > homogenous that no one else can tell them apart... Perhaps
            historians
            > of African art should now ask if objects in similar or identical
            > styles were produced in 'Centers of Style,' where artists of one
            > ethnic group produced art for all of their neighbors. Perhaps it
            is
            > even more important to cease attempting to break down large
            regional
            > styles into finer and finer tribal styles, and to recognize that
            > artists in Africa are capable of producing work not only in their
            own
            > style, but in the styles of their neighbors. It is clear that,
            at
            > least in central Burkina Faso, we cannot tell which group produced
            an
            > object by analyzing fine style characteristics.'"(p. 7)
            >
            > "These passages illuminate the extreme complexities in achieving
            a
            > masterful command of the criteria upon which to posit accurate
            > identification and assessment of object authenticity even through
            a
            > well-informed visual assessment of style. Further, the
            assumptions
            > made regarding the authorship of works as a criterion of
            establishing
            > authenticity also appears rather complicated. Too, as I have
            cited
            > this example in previous discussions, the fact that ritual masks
            and
            > tourist masks are created by the same hand, trebles the ambiguity
            and
            > difficulty in attributing authenticity and cultural origin to many
            an
            > object. So, beyond even the alleged subterfuge of
            misrepresentation,
            > we have the challenge of the more subtle subterfuge of
            > misidentification derived from an over-stated mastery in
            > distinguishing the features which constitute assessments of
            > authenticity. This range of ambiguities does not even take into
            > account the judgments which are made regarding the objects
            produced
            > by the same hands to fulfill both the requirements of ritual use
            and
            > commercial demand! Further, I would also like to point out that
            the
            > misrepresentation often does not originate with the carver but
            rather
            > may be created through various levels of conspiratorial collusion
            at
            > market levels to add value to works traded (sold, auctioned,
            > donated). As Dr. Roy indicates, efforts are often made to seek
            > "expert" opinion to support accurate identification and
            > authentication; yet, I am inclined to wonder about the relative
            > frequency -- and accessibility -- of such fastidious referencing.
            I
            > would imagine that assessments are far more often defaulted to
            less
            > authoritative sources than the indigenous sources -- even the
            > creators themselves, when possible, who might best provide the
            > highest level of scrutiny and commentary with regard to ritual
            > authenticity."
            >
            > So, I think that, generally speaking, it is important to weigh
            > specific attributions in proper correspondence to the amount of
            > confirmable supporting detail which is provided to support the
            > attribution. In the absence of such, I think it is often more
            > productive to refer to a circumscribable geographical area of
            origin
            > and then to see whether one can find data to support increasingly
            > specific attributions.
            >
            > For those of you who have read this far, I offer a reward --
            > especially if you are interested in metals. Although they do not
            > necessarily include direct references either to the metal
            equestrians
            > previously queried or Mike's Bobo-Tussian metal, they do offer a
            wide
            > variety of well-illustrated on-line resources on African metals
            (some
            > previously referenced in earlier discussions, like a
            Simpson's "clip
            > show"):
            >
            > *Tom Joyce's "Life Force at the Anvil: The Blacksmith's Art from
            > Africa" from Art Metal:
            http://www.artmetal.com/project/Features/
            > Africa/
            > Also viewable as slide sets beginning with:
            http://www.artmetal.com/
            > project/Features/Africa/page1.htm.
            >
            > **Allen Roberts and Evan Maurer's "Iron, Master of Them
            All" .pdf:
            > http://sdrc.lib.uiowa.edu/ceras/iron/iron.pdf
            > [.html version without images:
            http://sdrc.lib.uiowa.edu/ceras/iron/
            > index.html.]
            >
            > ***NEW: Link to the "African Metalworking Collection" of The
            > Canadian Museum of Making:
            > Museum: http://www3.museumofmaking.org/dbtw-wpd/machine.htm
            > Click on Link to African Metalworking Collection.
            >
            > Lee
            >
            >
            > On May 4, 2008, at 1:38 PM, lokaart@... wrote:
            >
            > > I note that Skinner's lot 115 is listed as 'Bobo (?)'. I have a
            > > similar item, bought from a reputable London dealer, which was
            > > classed as being Tussian. There is also another similar piece
            > > depicted on page 126 of Robbins & Nooter 'African Art in
            American
            > > Collections' (1989) which is also described as being Tussian.
            > >
            > > Mike Yates
            > >
            > >
            >
          • RAND (www.RandAfricanArt.com)
            Hi group I ve been to a lot of events and seen a lot of interesting things over the last year, but just haven t been up to writing about them. It s nice to
            Message 5 of 11 , May 10, 2008
            • 0 Attachment
              Hi group
               
              I've been to a lot of events and seen a lot of interesting things over the last year, but just haven't been up to writing about them. It's nice to finally start to get back into sharing the experiences again...
               
              I just returned home from attending the Skinner auction here in Boston and thought I'd comment on my experience. I had studied the catalog pretty well and picked out a few favorite objects that I wanted to see, and last night I attended a viewing of the offerings.
               
              One of the things that was high on my list was the Lobi maternity figure (lot 146) and as I walked in I went right over to it and looked at it (as it was propped up against a column). The thing that jumped out at me, that wasn't apparently visible in the photograph, was a large stripe of some sort of substance (looked like wood stain and wasn't original to the object, it was covering a crack but not very well) brushed right down the front of the neck of the object. I'm sure it could have been removed by someone, but it really distracted from the object in person and really took my interest away. At auction the lot did not sell, it was passed by the auction house @$900 for no bids.
               
              Some of my favorite things from the viewing:
               
              The things that I ended up falling in love with at the viewing last night were a couple of staffs: a staff from Angola (lot 127) and the Baboon head staff with the intertwining pair of snakes (lot 128).
               
              I really liked the Ibo elephant mask (lot 82 - sold for $1300 + BP which was a bargain).
               
              The Dan mask (lot 94) was a really nice example I thought, it sold for a reasonable (but low in my opinion) $650 + BP.
               
              The cast brass animal (lot 115) that was discussed in the group, got a lot of attention and interest from people in the viewing and sold for $850 + BP. Lots of great detail to the piece and a lot of character.
               
              The Bamana female figure (lot 137) was very nice in person. It was sweating oil, which you can't really tell from the photo, it sold for $4500 + BP. It was a nice old piece.
               
              One of my favorite small objects from the preview, which I also loved in the catalog, was the Senufo female figure (lot 143). It was small at 6.5", but it sold for a hefty $6,000 + BP to a French dealer who was present. It was quite a bidding war and a friend of mine really wanted it, but in the end lost out (the Euro against the dollar makes a difference). I especially loved the carving of this object, the backward angle of the elbows with the forward angular shape of the stomach and breasts. The face was simple and beautiful, one of the gems of the auction.
               
              The South African male figure listed as Zulu (lot 150) was extremely nice and I would have loved to been able to bid on it. The face was great and I especially loved the slight forward movement of the figure with the positioning of the arms. It should have been mounted on a base as it was just leaning against a wall and was very unstable. The lucky bidder got it for $4750 + BP.
               
              I wasn't really impressed with the Kota figure (lot 151, estimate $10,000 - $15,000). With no bids the auction house passed on the lot at the opening bid of $5000.
               
              Another piece I really liked was the seated Asante figure (lot 135). What you can't see from the photo was the really great patina of the figure, and the nice carving in the back. The figure was seated towards the middle of the seat and there was a nice openness in the back with nice detail to the chair. It had an estimate of $2000-2500, but was passed at the opening bid of $1000 with no bids.
               
              Lot 127 , the staff from Angola, didn't appeal to me at all in the auction catalog, but when you got the chance to pick it up and look at the incredible detail in the carving of the head, especially in the back, it was wonderful. The face was very small and serene, the piece had an incredible overall presence and I loved it and kept coming back to it.
               
              Lot 128 , the baboon topped staff, did appeal to me in the catalog, but I loved it even more when I got to examine it in my hands. The detail in the carving was wonderful, the intertwining snakes were masterfully carved and the heads came to rest on opposite sides of the staff with the heads in opposite directions. The baboon head on the top was nicely carved as well and there was a lizard on the back of the staff. No attribution was given in the catalog, but the color of the wood and the baboon as a finale made me think southeast Africa for it's origin. I talked to several dealers who weren't sure of it's origin, but agreed it was a wonderful piece.
               
              I was also intrigued by the East African staff (lot 125). After examining it I liked it but wasn't really as excited by it as I was the other two I liked.
               
              When the staffs came up on the block I was torn between bidding on 127 or 128. I started off with a few bids on the Angolan staff but dropped out towards the end because I really had my eye set on the baboon topped staff. I kept in the bidding on the baboon topped staff for a while and then let out a sign and dropped out when it got higher than the other 2 staffs went. At that point a dealer from CA jumped in, but at the last minute I decided that it was too great to let go and I threw up my paddle and it was mine.
               
              Lee's "sleeper" object, the wonderful little Ibibio mask (lot 85), was a very nice and simple mask with a nice presence. It sold for $900 + BP, it sold to a dealer in Boston.
               
              Some of the items that had pretty good bidding wars going on for them or were passed for no interest/bids:
               
              The Luba divination implement (lot 70) was nice, but I thought it's estimate was appropriate at $500-$700. There was a bidding war between several people for this object and it finally ended up selling for $4,250 + BP!
               
              The Kongo ivories, lots 73 and 74 had a lot of bidders, and went for well above their estimates. Lot 73 went for $5500 + BP and 74 went for $3250 + BP.
               
              The Yoruba ivory trumpet (lot 77) was nice in person and had an estimate of $300-500 but ended up selling for $3250 + BP in a battle between a couple of people.
               
              The small Dan mask (lot 98) was a very nice mask and had a reasonable estimate of $500-700, but two people in the room really wanted it and it ended up going for $3000 + BP in the end.
               
              The Pende mask (lot 109) with the interesting hairstyle represented went for way over it's $1000-1500 estimate, it sold for $12,000 + BP! In person I didn't really like the proportions of the face on the mask.
               
              One of the higher estimates in the African group was the Ngbaka harp (lot 116) which had an estimate of $20,000-30,000, was passed by the auction house with no bids at an opening bid of $10,000. It was an unusually large harp I thought.
               
              (mentioned earlier) The Senufo female figure (lot 143). It was small at 6.5", but it sold for a hefty $6000 + BP to a French dealer who was present. It was quite a bidding war and a friend of mine really wanted it, but in the end lost out. I especially loved the carving of this object, the backward angle of the elbows with the forward angular shape of the stomach and breasts. The face was simple and beautiful, one of the gems of the auction.
               
              The interesting Temne figure (est of $5-7,000  lot 148) had a lot of interest on the auction floor, and after starting with an opening bid of $2500, it sold for $10,000 + BP.
               
              No other really big surprises in the auction. Quite a few things sold for below their estimate, while a good majority sold withing their estimate.
               
              A large portion of the African objects were from the collection of (now deceased) Paul Rabut who started collecting in the 40's. I think that he had a nice eye and I talked to someone at the auction that had previously acquired the larger part of his collection many years back and he invited me to come and see the collection, which I'm looking forward to.
               
              Overall it was a fairly small but interesting auction, I'm looking forward to Bonhams and Sotheby's next week!
               
              Results from the Skinner auction can be seen:
               
              or visually by CLICKING HERE
               
              Cheers!
              RAND

              Lee Rubinstein <LeeRubinstein@...> wrote:
              
              Lot 115: African Cast Brass Animal

              Margalit:

              I agree with you on the allure of Lot 115. What a wonderfully
              rendered and engaging figure!

              More generally, the listings for Skinner Sale 2408 on May 10, 2008
              can be viewed here. (http://www.skinnerinc.com/asp/search.asp?zq=1?
              t=2508343&st=D&.) African Lots -- which may come largely but not
              wholly from one collection -- begin with Lot 61 and run through Lot 152.

              Among the highlights is Lot 150 -- an intriguing figure previously
              discussed in the group beginning with Message 2562.

              Lot 109 may be of interest to those who followed the discussion of
              Pende mbuya beginning with Florent's Message 2419. What a
              "coiffure"! (Also see Lots 102 and 103 a propos a Pende mask queried
              and discussed beginning with Message 2090.)

              Message 874 pertains to Baule Goli mask type and other Baule mask
              classifications, as offered in Lot 90.

              Once more, there are a number of ivory offerings and -- as seen
              elsewhere -- a flurry of Senufo offerings (lots 141-145 -- some among
              figures Margalit noted.) Just one bladed implement caught my eye:
              Lot 62 -- a Salampasu (Sala Mpasu) sheathed example that might be
              comfortably grasped both physically and financially. Also, of the
              offerings relevant to previous discussions which come to mind is the
              Temne female figure (Lot 148).

              A quite imposing, even monumental, figure at 46+ inches (117 cm) that
              appears beautifully carved is Lot 146, a Lobi female figure with
              child on hip. Those with a predisposition toward Lobi aesthetics and/
              or a penchant for Colon figures, see Lot 130.

              With regard to walking sticks and staffs recently discussed, see Lot
              128 for a very nice snake-entwined staff with baboon-head finial.
              Also in the grouping of staffs, don't overlook Lot 125 for its
              remarkable finial figure or in the realm of the Senufo again a very
              striking brass and iron staff (Lot 126).

              Although I would like to view it more closely and from a variety of
              angles, the "sleeper" in the selection -- for me -- is Lot 85, which
              strikes me in its simplicity, surface wear and suggestion of the
              commonalities to be construed between forms from southeastern Nigeria
              and those of the western Guinea Coast. Maybe it's just me and where
              my thinking is focused, but I do love the rubbed surfaces of the lips
              and the hat brim. My hat is off to this particular mask, which could
              nicely watch over the equally delicious Kongo ivory quintet (Lot 78)
              and the Zulu snuff container offered as part of Lot 71.

              Lee

              On May 4, 2008, at 2:33 AM, M.E.F. wrote:

              >
              > The upcoming Skinner Auction seems a good one. I would go for 115,
              > 114, 13, 145, 146...
              >
              > It seems to come from just one collection. It is always nice when
              > that is the case as there is a unifying factor. In this case I
              > think the collector had an eye for expressive carving.
              >
              > Good prices!
              > M
              >
              >
              > Be a better friend, newshound, and know-it-all with Yahoo! Mobile.
              > Try it now.
              >
              >


            • M.E.F.
              Thanks so much Rand! You don t know what such a report means for one so far away. I really look forward to hearing about the Bonham s auction. The Sotheby s is
              Message 6 of 11 , May 10, 2008
              • 0 Attachment
                Thanks so much Rand! You don't know what such a report means for one so far away. I really look forward to hearing about the Bonham's auction. The Sotheby's is less appealing to me this time. Thanks again, M

                ----- Original Message ----
                From: RAND (www.RandAfricanArt.com) <rand@...>
                To: African_Arts@yahoogroups.com
                Sent: Sunday, May 11, 2008 1:49:33 AM
                Subject: Re: [African_Arts] AUCTION... Skinner auction -- May 10, 2008

                Hi group
                 
                I've been to a lot of events and seen a lot of interesting things over the last year, but just haven't been up to writing about them. It's nice to finally start to get back into sharing the experiences again...
                 
                I just returned home from attending the Skinner auction here in Boston and thought I'd comment on my experience. I had studied the catalog pretty well and picked out a few favorite objects that I wanted to see, and last night I attended a viewing of the offerings.
                 
                One of the things that was high on my list was the Lobi maternity figure (lot 146) and as I walked in I went right over to it and looked at it (as it was propped up against a column). The thing that jumped out at me, that wasn't apparently visible in the photograph, was a large stripe of some sort of substance (looked like wood stain and wasn't original to the object, it was covering a crack but not very well) brushed right down the front of the neck of the object. I'm sure it could have been removed by someone, but it really distracted from the object in person and really took my interest away. At auction the lot did not sell, it was passed by the auction house @$900 for no bids.
                 
                Some of my favorite things from the viewing:
                 
                The things that I ended up falling in love with at the viewing last night were a couple of staffs: a staff from Angola (lot 127) and the Baboon head staff with the intertwining pair of snakes (lot 128).
                 
                I really liked the Ibo elephant mask (lot 82 - sold for $1300 + BP which was a bargain).
                 
                The Dan mask (lot 94) was a really nice example I thought, it sold for a reasonable (but low in my opinion) $650 + BP.
                 
                The cast brass animal (lot 115) that was discussed in the group, got a lot of attention and interest from people in the viewing and sold for $850 + BP. Lots of great detail to the piece and a lot of character.
                 
                The Bamana female figure (lot 137) was very nice in person. It was sweating oil, which you can't really tell from the photo, it sold for $4500 + BP. It was a nice old piece.
                 
                One of my favorite small objects from the preview, which I also loved in the catalog, was the Senufo female figure (lot 143). It was small at 6.5", but it sold for a hefty $6,000 + BP to a French dealer who was present. It was quite a bidding war and a friend of mine really wanted it, but in the end lost out (the Euro against the dollar makes a difference). I especially loved the carving of this object, the backward angle of the elbows with the forward angular shape of the stomach and breasts. The face was simple and beautiful, one of the gems of the auction.
                 
                The South African male figure listed as Zulu (lot 150) was extremely nice and I would have loved to been able to bid on it. The face was great and I especially loved the slight forward movement of the figure with the positioning of the arms. It should have been mounted on a base as it was just leaning against a wall and was very unstable. The lucky bidder got it for $4750 + BP.
                 
                I wasn't really impressed with the Kota figure (lot 151, estimate $10,000 - $15,000). With no bids the auction house passed on the lot at the opening bid of $5000.
                 
                Another piece I really liked was the seated Asante figure (lot 135). What you can't see from the photo was the really great patina of the figure, and the nice carving in the back. The figure was seated towards the middle of the seat and there was a nice openness in the back with nice detail to the chair. It had an estimate of $2000-2500, but was passed at the opening bid of $1000 with no bids.
                 
                Lot 127 , the staff from Angola, didn't appeal to me at all in the auction catalog, but when you got the chance to pick it up and look at the incredible detail in the carving of the head, especially in the back, it was wonderful. The face was very small and serene, the piece had an incredible overall presence and I loved it and kept coming back to it.
                 
                Lot 128 , the baboon topped staff, did appeal to me in the catalog, but I loved it even more when I got to examine it in my hands. The detail in the carving was wonderful, the intertwining snakes were masterfully carved and the heads came to rest on opposite sides of the staff with the heads in opposite directions. The baboon head on the top was nicely carved as well and there was a lizard on the back of the staff. No attribution was given in the catalog, but the color of the wood and the baboon as a finale made me think southeast Africa for it's origin. I talked to several dealers who weren't sure of it's origin, but agreed it was a wonderful piece.
                 
                I was also intrigued by the East African staff (lot 125). After examining it I liked it but wasn't really as excited by it as I was the other two I liked.
                 
                When the staffs came up on the block I was torn between bidding on 127 or 128. I started off with a few bids on the Angolan staff but dropped out towards the end because I really had my eye set on the baboon topped staff. I kept in the bidding on the baboon topped staff for a while and then let out a sign and dropped out when it got higher than the other 2 staffs went. At that point a dealer from CA jumped in, but at the last minute I decided that it was too great to let go and I threw up my paddle and it was mine.
                 
                Lee's "sleeper" object, the wonderful little Ibibio mask (lot 85), was a very nice and simple mask with a nice presence. It sold for $900 + BP, it sold to a dealer in Boston.
                 
                Some of the items that had pretty good bidding wars going on for them or were passed for no interest/bids:
                 
                The Luba divination implement (lot 70) was nice, but I thought it's estimate was appropriate at $500-$700. There was a bidding war between several people for this object and it finally ended up selling for $4,250 + BP!
                 
                The Kongo ivories, lots 73 and 74 had a lot of bidders, and went for well above their estimates. Lot 73 went for $5500 + BP and 74 went for $3250 + BP.
                 
                The Yoruba ivory trumpet (lot 77) was nice in person and had an estimate of $300-500 but ended up selling for $3250 + BP in a battle between a couple of people.
                 
                The small Dan mask (lot 98) was a very nice mask and had a reasonable estimate of $500-700, but two people in the room really wanted it and it ended up going for $3000 + BP in the end.
                 
                The Pende mask (lot 109) with the interesting hairstyle represented went for way over it's $1000-1500 estimate, it sold for $12,000 + BP! In person I didn't really like the proportions of the face on the mask.
                 
                One of the higher estimates in the African group was the Ngbaka harp (lot 116) which had an estimate of $20,000-30,000, was passed by the auction house with no bids at an opening bid of $10,000. It was an unusually large harp I thought.
                 
                (mentioned earlier) The Senufo female figure (lot 143). It was small at 6.5", but it sold for a hefty $6000 + BP to a French dealer who was present. It was quite a bidding war and a friend of mine really wanted it, but in the end lost out. I especially loved the carving of this object, the backward angle of the elbows with the forward angular shape of the stomach and breasts. The face was simple and beautiful, one of the gems of the auction.
                 
                The interesting Temne figure (est of $5-7,000  lot 148) had a lot of interest on the auction floor, and after starting with an opening bid of $2500, it sold for $10,000 + BP.
                 
                No other really big surprises in the auction. Quite a few things sold for below their estimate, while a good majority sold withing their estimate.
                 
                A large portion of the African objects were from the collection of (now deceased) Paul Rabut who started collecting in the 40's. I think that he had a nice eye and I talked to someone at the auction that had previously acquired the larger part of his collection many years back and he invited me to come and see the collection, which I'm looking forward to.
                 
                Overall it was a fairly small but interesting auction, I'm looking forward to Bonhams and Sotheby's next week!
                 
                Results from the Skinner auction can be seen:
                 
                or visually by CLICKING HERE
                 
                Cheers!
                RAND

                Lee Rubinstein <LeeRubinstein@ mac.com> wrote:
                
                Lot 115: African Cast Brass Animal

                Margalit:

                I agree with you on the allure of Lot 115. What a wonderfully
                rendered and engaging figure!

                More generally, the listings for Skinner Sale 2408 on May 10, 2008
                can be viewed here. (http://www. skinnerinc. com/asp/search. asp?zq=1?
                t=2508343&st=D&.) African Lots -- which may come largely but not
                wholly from one collection -- begin with Lot 61 and run through Lot 152.

                Among the highlights is Lot 150 -- an intriguing figure previously
                discussed in the group beginning with Message 2562.

                Lot 109 may be of interest to those who followed the discussion of
                Pende mbuya beginning with Florent's Message 2419. What a
                "coiffure"! (Also see Lots 102 and 103 a propos a Pende mask queried
                and discussed beginning with Message 2090.)

                Message 874 pertains to Baule Goli mask type and other Baule mask
                classifications, as offered in Lot 90.

                Once more, there are a number of ivory offerings and -- as seen
                elsewhere -- a flurry of Senufo offerings (lots 141-145 -- some among
                figures Margalit noted.) Just one bladed implement caught my eye:
                Lot 62 -- a Salampasu (Sala Mpasu) sheathed example that might be
                comfortably grasped both physically and financially. Also, of the
                offerings relevant to previous discussions which come to mind is the
                Temne female figure (Lot 148).

                A quite imposing, even monumental, figure at 46+ inches (117 cm) that
                appears beautifully carved is Lot 146, a Lobi female figure with
                child on hip. Those with a predisposition toward Lobi aesthetics and/
                or a penchant for Colon figures, see Lot 130.

                With regard to walking sticks and staffs recently discussed, see Lot
                128 for a very nice snake-entwined staff with baboon-head finial.
                Also in the grouping of staffs, don't overlook Lot 125 for its
                remarkable finial figure or in the realm of the Senufo again a very
                striking brass and iron staff (Lot 126).

                Although I would like to view it more closely and from a variety of
                angles, the "sleeper" in the selection -- for me -- is Lot 85, which
                strikes me in its simplicity, surface wear and suggestion of the
                commonalities to be construed between forms from southeastern Nigeria
                and those of the western Guinea Coast. Maybe it's just me and where
                my thinking is focused, but I do love the rubbed surfaces of the lips
                and the hat brim. My hat is off to this particular mask, which could
                nicely watch over the equally delicious Kongo ivory quintet (Lot 78)
                and the Zulu snuff container offered as part of Lot 71.

                Lee

                On May 4, 2008, at 2:33 AM, M.E.F. wrote:

                >
                > The upcoming Skinner Auction seems a good one. I would go for 115,
                > 114, 13, 145, 146...
                >
                > It seems to come from just one collection. It is always nice when
                > that is the case as there is a unifying factor. In this case I
                > think the collector had an eye for expressive carving.
                >
                > Good prices!
                > M
                >
                >
                > Be a better friend, newshound, and know-it-all with Yahoo! Mobile.
                > Try it now.
                >
                >




                Be a better friend, newshound, and know-it-all with Yahoo! Mobile. Try it now.
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