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Re: African(?) Snake mask - help with identification please

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  • Paul
    Dear members, I was wondering whether any members had any inspired thoughts about the snake mask I showed pictures of the other day
    Message 1 of 4 , Feb 6, 2011
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      Dear members,
      I was wondering whether any members had any inspired thoughts about the "snake mask" I showed pictures of the other day

      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/African_Arts/message/5251

      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/African_Arts/photos/album/1463457334/pic/list (file: "Snake Mask Please help identify")

      Is the lack of reaction because the piece is so unusual and nobody has any ideas, or is the silence being due to it being utter rubbish which should be binned?

      What about the eggshell stuck on with 'goo'? Any thoughts on that and whether its owner should get it cleaned off? Or is there a chance that it is an integral part of the use of the object?

      Thanks in advance for any thoughts you can offer

      Paul






      --- In African_Arts@yahoogroups.com, "Paul" <pbarford@...> wrote:
      >
      > This mask was, its owner says, brought to Poland by an African student studying there in the 1960s as a gift for his tutor:
      > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/African_Arts/photos/album/1463457334/pic/list
      > Sadly the owner does not know from which country the student came. The mask is 25 cm long, 17 cm wide and 9 cm high. It is carved from a relatively light wood with a wide spaced annual ring structure marked by vesicles.
      >
      > The deeply convex inside is hollowed out with a wide-bladed tool (adze?) and gouge. It is natural light wood colour, some of the exterior (pitch-like?) staining penetrates the interior through the holes. There are signs of wear on the edges, suggesting it might have been used. The exterior is covered in a black/brown stain which is then also covered by a brownish ‘goo’ which makes the colours of the paint underneath difficult to see and photograph (they change depending on the light, in normal light its a dirty dull brown colour).
      >
      > The mask is hand-carved, some chisel marks are still visible, though the surface of the raised carved elements is very smooth and regular. The mask depicts snakes, a coiled one at top left (coloured dark red), a writhing one at the bottom (reddish-brown with white reticulate painted lines), while the snake at top right is swallowing a animal I take to be a lizard. The lizard has been painted pale vermilion red, the swallowing snake is dark greenish colour with an ochre reticulate pattern all over. There are two eye-silts between the three snakes, the left (right) one is T-shaped and this seems original. All the way round the rear margin of the mask are fairly regularly spaced drilled holes 3mm in diameter.
      >
      > A very odd feature of the mask is that it is covered in brownish "goo";(which seems separate from the stain visible on the rear margins of the mask) in which are scattered crushed eggshell (I do not think these are chicken eggshells, too thin and much more curved). The fact that they are relatively evenly scattered over the surface suggests that the effect was deliberate, though this does not seem to be part of the "decorative scheme&"; in fact the dark goo obliterates it.
      >
      > I would like to know if any members have seen anything like this and have any idea where it might be from, and what its function might have been.
      >
      > I have not come across any mentions of the use of eggs to create a crude decorative effect on masks, is this known to any members?
      >
      > Or do people think somebody has been messing about with it (in which case should the owner not have it cleaned off?).
      >
      > Is this a tourist piece, or could it be something more interesting?
      >
      > I'd be grateful for any comments
      >
      > Paul Barford
      >
    • Lawrence
      In terms of generalities I would have said perhaps Baule, perhaps Nigerian (the lizards are very Yoruba). However the overall style of the mask and the odd
      Message 2 of 4 , Feb 6, 2011
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        In terms of generalities I would have said perhaps Baule, perhaps Nigerian (the lizards are very Yoruba). However the overall style of the mask and the odd patination makes me suspect that it is a rather more recent creation. As in all cases, it is best to leave African/tribal pieces alone in that the patination is a major part of their charm and a good reflection of their authenticity, and this is a good policy to follow even when the age of a piece is in question. Lawrence
      • Paul Barford
        Lawrence suggested that the snake-and-lizard mask I showed here was a rather more recent creation , but influenced by Baule or Nigerian mask styles. It has
        Message 3 of 4 , Feb 9, 2011
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          Lawrence suggested that the snake-and-lizard mask I showed here was a "rather more recent creation", but influenced by Baule or Nigerian mask styles. It has been in the owner's family since the 1960s however so it is not very "recent", which is why I was asking for some opinions.
           
          Thanks Lawrence very much for your opinion and for that lead, can anyone help narrow it down more? I've looked in the regions Lawrence suggests but can find nothing remotely like it on the Internet at least.

          Has anyone come across randomly scattered crushed shell used in this way to create a 'patina' or decorative effect on a mask? (I'm not sure I agree with Lawrence that it adds  'charm' in this case, but that's up to the owner to decide)
           
          Thanks anyway to all those who looked at it and especially those who ventured an opinion.
           
          Paul
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