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Sotheby's Auctions of the Paolo Morigi Collection -- December and June, 2005

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  • LRubinstein@post.harvard.edu
    Review of the Sale of Works from the Paolo Morigi Collection at Sotheby s (Paris) on Tuesday, December 6, 2005 by Lee Rubinstein
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 11, 2005
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      Review of the Sale of Works from the Paolo Morigi Collection at Sotheby's (Paris) on Tuesday, December 6, 2005
      by Lee Rubinstein (lrubinstein@...)
      Lot 53:  Dogon Female Figure (December 6)
       
      The Paolo Morigi Collection -- of which a portion was offered by Sotheby's Paris on December 6, 2005 --  has been among the most notable and esteemed collections of African art assembled during the 20th century.  As a collector, Morigi drew upon both 1) his well documented interactions with other great 20th century European collectors such as George F. Keller (who notably succeeded Paul Guillaume as the primary advisor to Albert Barnes in forming his important collection of European and African art) and Han Coray, both from whom Morigi ultimately acquired already prestigious collections -- in part or in full -- to add to his own in the last third of the century and 2) his own personal interest and passion which led him to travel,learn and collect throughout West Africa.  As such, the Morigi collection was created through the acquisition (and re-acquisition) of works from the sources of canonical European presentations of African sculpture as well as thorough the introduction of firsthand knowledge and works directly gathered by Morigi on his journeys through (mostly West) Africa.  Thus, the works offered in this most recent auction -- as well as the auction which was held six months ago on June 6 -- represented an opportunity to partake of a objects recognizable for their inherent qualities and indigenous import as well as for a rich history of Western appreciation for these forms and traditions.
       
                                          Lot 128:  Bamum Caryatid Throne (June)
       
      The June_6_Auction  -- in which just under half (73) of the 150 lots offered were sold for a total of 2 288 120 EUR included the noteworthy sale of June Lot 128, the Bamum_Caryatid_Throne from the the collection of Etienne Bignou which had been originally presented internationally in the 1935 exhibition of "African Negro Sculpture" at New York's Museum of Modern Art and through the photographs created by Walker Evans in conjunction with that historic exhibition.  The 549 600 EUR sale price of the Bamum Throne --- though below the pre-auction estimate of 600-900 000 EUR -- make it among the higher recorded sales amounts for any single African work in recent years as well as a significant exception to lackluster responses to Cameroon Grasslands offerings at recent auctions.  Sales of additional Grasslands works such as Lot 130, a Kom_Akam_Mask(GFK_223), placed an exclamation mark with that mask's exceeding of the high estimate of 50,000 EUR with a final price with premium of 60 000 EUR as did the sale of June Lot 164, a Bamileke_Ku'ngan_Society_Buffalo_Mask (GFK 224) at 102 000 EUR -- 12 000 EUR beyond the high pre-auction estimate of 90,000 EUR.  (Note:  Throughout the article, "GFK ###" refers to the catalogue number from the former collection of George F. Keller.  "HC ###" indicates cataloguing in the former Han Coray Collection.)
       
      Other fine works and strong sales in June included:  Lot 90, George de Mire's Baule Seated Male Figure (GFK 150) sold below its opening estimate of 300 000 EUR but still eliciting 236 000 EUR;  Lot_114: A_Baule_Seated_Female_Figure(GFK_145);below its estimate at 280 800 EUR;   Lot 104 -- the rare Guro Statue (GFK 135), a female form acquired by Ernst Ascher in the late 1920's for 120 000 EUR; a Kota_Mbulu_Ngulu_(GFK_230) , Lot 172, classified as Chaffin Group 8 and Perrois Category VI which had been gathered in 1910 by General Dagnan (identified as a friend of Andre Fourquet's family and the source of a number of piece's in the collection of Fourquet).  While this particular figure, the Dagnan-Morigi figure sold for 120 000 EUR, another offered lot (173), a classical Kota referred to as the Matisse-Morigi_Mbulu_Ngulu which was offered in a similar six-figure range did not achieve a sale on June 6 nor did Lot 167(GFK 368).  (Another classical Mbulu Ngulu did, however, become the only example of this form sold of the five Mbulu Ngulu lots offered -- or re-offered -- on December 6, as you will see below.)
       
      The final featured work which did sell at the June 6 auction was a unique and multiply provenanced Songye_Male_Cup_Bearer (ref. GFK 304 and HC 525) that fell short of its pre-auction opening estimate of 350 000 EUR but still managed to command a final 280 800 EUR selling-price-with-premium, equaling the price achieved for Lot 114.  (Note:  All sale prices quoted in this article do include the Buyer's Premium whereas pre-auction estimates, of course, do not.) 
       
      Before proceeding to a review of the December 6 auction, a few other details regarding offered lots in June -- both sold and unsold -- are worth noting.  Among the sales which were transacted was that of a featured mask, Lot 100,  that, while missing its opening pre-auction estimate of 50-70,000 EUR, did receive a final price of 48,000 EUR.  However, it is not the sale details that are so deserving of attention but rather the remarkable and mysterious form of the mask itself, a Northern Liberian Dan Anthropo-zoomorphic_Face_Mask (GFK 46 as well as having been in the collections of Ralph Nash and Helmut Gersheim) with the projectile flange resolving in a hand in front of the face.  This forceful and intriguing mask, believed to have originated in Wobe country, represents a rare example of a traditional form no longer in existence and thus bears the secrets of Society belief and practices no longer in evidence in the region to which it has been traced. 
      Lot 100: Northern Liberian Dan Anthropo-zoomorphic Mask  (June)
       
      In contrast, Lot 107, a Senufo_Kpeliye'e, which was featured but did not sell, represents a more recurrently produced and familiar form that serves to represent the continuity of traditional forms as well.  Finally, the last of the featured lots from the June auction which has not been mentioned (and which did not sell) was Lot_121, a well patinated, finely carved and variously embellished Igala_Figure (GFK 203) from Nigeria that stands as a reminder of traditions and forms that remain relatively unexplored and unrecognized but which beckon further research and broader appreciation of forms outside of the canons which define commercial interest in the arts and cultures of Africa.
                                       Lot 121:  Igala Fetish Statue (June)
       
      So, with the June auction now fading into the past (but, I hope, not an interest in many of the forms and traditions presented), we now look more closely at this week's Collection_Paolo_Morigi_December_6_2005 auction at which 124 objects from the Paolo Morigi Collection were offered.  The offerings were presented along a fairly standard, recognizable geographical route, beginning in West Africa, moving along the Guinea Coast, rounding briefly into the Sahel and then journeying Eastward through Nigeria, down through Cameroon through Gabon and into Zaire...with a few circles through the regions occupied by contiguous cultures.  In order to properly consider these objects, reference will also be made to June offerings from similar and related lots so as to offer a broader view of the offering of this Collection as a whole.
      Lot 85:  Baule Heddle Pulley (June)
      After the presentation of a small group of Oceanic objects (which are not within our consideration), the December auction's first African objects were 8 lots (Lots 11-16, 18-19) of Dan-Gio (1), Baule (1) and Guro (6) heddle pulleys.  Three of six Guro lots were sold  -- including Lot_16 with Storrer/Keller provenance within its estimate range at 1560 EUR,  Lot_13 from Liotard above its range at 2160 EUR and Lot_16 below its range but at the highest price of 3360 EUR.  Of the three Guro pulleys that were passed, two lacked specific data (beyond, of course, the Morigi provenance which applies to all lots in the auction) and another with the highest estimate (3-5K EUR) had a publication history by Fischer and Homberger.  The unsold Dan-Gio example had no specific data, whereas the Baule heddle pulley with provenance through Ernst Ascher (c. 1930) and Keller (GFK 163) also failed to sell.  An additional Ivoirian Senufo Heddle Pulley with no specific data also was passed.  However, it should be noted that there were twelve related lots offered in June -- of which eight were sold.  Three Guro and one Baule pulleys were passed;  four Baule single pulleys, a Senufo pulley  and a Baule-Guro pair of heddle pulleys sold below their estimates.  One lot, however, June_Lot_85, a Baule pulley, exceeded its estimate of 8-12 000 EUR and achieved a final price of 16 800 EUR at the June auction while a Guro heddle pulley (June_Lot_102) with orange glass inset eyes achieved a sale within its estimate when it sold for 9 600 EUR.
       
       
      Lot 102:  Guro Heddle Pulley (June)
       
      A total of six steatite objects without detailed collection data -- three pomtan (sing., pomdo) and three nomoli -- were offered in December as Lots 21-26.  Of the three Kissi pomtan from Guinea, one, Lot_22, was sold for 1560 EUR -- at the low end of its range of 1500-2500 EUR -- while the other two offered in a similar range did not sell.  However, all three of the Sierra Leonean Nomoli objects, a Sherbro pair of figures (Lot_23: 3360 EUR), a non-specified Sierra Leonean figure (Lot_24: 2,640 EUR) and a Sherbro Nomoli head (Lot_26: 5,640 EUR) all sold above or within their estimate ranges.  None of the six lots carried any specific source data.  (For an excellent, brief introduction to these mysterious stone figures, generally uncovered during the preparation of agricultural lands and attributed to the region's previous inhabitants, see pages 47-53 in Donna Page's title essay in Artists and Patrons in Traditional Cultures:  African Sculpture from the Gary Schulze Collection [ISBN 0-9764756-0-X].) 
                   
       
      Drawing upon objects from within the same region in more recent times, there were three Sande Society Sowei Bundu masks, all collected by Morigi in the early 1960's, offered with estimates ranging from 4000-8000 EUR.  Lot #17, a Mende_or_Bassa_Helmet_Mask collected in 1963 did not sell.   Lot_38:_A_Mende_Helmet_Mask , collected in Sierra Leone in the early 60's,  and Lot_48:_A_Gola_Helmet_Mask, collected in Montserrado County, Liberia during the same period were sold below their estimates for 3600 EUR and 3000 EUR respectively.  In June, two of three Bundu masks offered sold.  Both which sold went below their ranges, although their ranges were much higher (20-35,000 EUR for the first
      piece which sold).  The Mende mask which sold (Lot #87 in the June auction) was quite unique, exhibiting exquisite patina and a standing figure gripping the back of the mask's coiffure:  Mende_Helmet_Mask_with Figure .  The second mask of this type which sold in June, Lot_136:_A_Gola_Helmet_Mask collected in 1984 -- again from Montserrado County, brought 9600 EUR, rather below its 12-15000 EUR pre-auction estimate. 
       
      However, the relative coolness of response to this canonical form is noteworthy and may reflect a general reaction to the abundance of examples -- both authentic and inauthentic -- currently found on the market at various levels of quality and price.  The extreme diversity arising from among the numerous cultures and regions in which the Sande societies exist may further challenge the ability of collectors to select and commit to higher-priced offerings of this form.  Also, in spite of Morigi's tendency to value and collect the most complete masquerade ensembles, none of the Sowei helmet masks offered in either auction included the raffia fiber skirting that embellishes the most compelling -- and prized examples of this canonical mask form.  (For a rich array of examples as well as field analysis of masks of this type, see Ruth B. Phillips, Representing Woman:  Sande Masquerades of the Mende of Sierra Leone. (Los Angeles:  UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History.  1995) [ISBN 0-930741-45-5]
       
      Two face masks from the general region, identified as Dey (but exhibiting characteristics also associated with Bassa masks), which were collected by Morigi in Montserrado County in 1962/63 -- Lot_30 and Lot_31 -- were offered with pre-auction estimates of 3-5 000 Euros.  Only the latter sold, for 3840 EUR.  A Dey_Or_Bassa_Mask, offered as Lot 135 in June with an estimate of 10-14 000 EUR went unsold in that earlier auction.
       
      Lot 28:  Lobi Bateba Phuwe (December)
      One Lobi object was offered in the December auction (and none in June).  The lone Lobi figure, Lot_28 , a large (31") figure with bold form, a fissure in the torso and missing feet, was included in Piet Meyer's Kunst und Religion der Lobi (Zurich:  Museum Reitberg, 1981) and sold well -- in its range (30 000- 40 000) for 33 600 EUR. 
       
      The lot which preceded the Lobi figure was the first of three Bamana N'tomo masks which were offered.  The first, Lot_27, a Seven-Horned Bamana or Marka N'tomo Mask with Copper Leafing (and multiple provenances GFK 12 and Gernsheim) -- with a pre-auction estimate of 50-70 000 EUR --  did not sell.  Nor did Lot_32, a two-horned Bamana N'tomo mask with signs of metal appliques no longer present from Han Coray (HC 69).  However, the third example (the second of the three offered), Lot_29 was a spectacular N'tomo mask from the Segou region, one of a small number of known examples with a figure of Faro, the androgynous Bamana water god, carved prominently between two pairs of horns on either side.  This impressive mask did indeed sell within its estimated range of 70-100 000 EUR when it achieved a selling price-with-premium of 84 000 EUR. 
       
      Lot 29:  Bamana N'tomo Mask, Segou Region (December)
       
      Four Senufo lots were presented in the December auction, and as in the November 11 auction at Sotheby's in New York (featuring works from the Britt Family Collection), the majority did not sell.  In addition to an unsold heddle pulley (Lot_20) from the Senufo, Lot_39, a korobla "hybrid animal" mask, failed to sell, as did Lot_56 -- a well documented and exhibited deble, or rhythm pounder (also poropi:ibèlé ou do:ogèlé:  see Auction Notes for Lot_56).  In June, only one of the two Senufo objects offered found a buyer:  Lot_108:_A_Senufo_Equestrian_Figure sold for 3 000 EUR, below its 4-6 000 EUR pre-auction estimate while Lot_107:_A_Senufo_Mask, a Kpeliye'e distinguished by three smaller faces (above and to the sides) as embellishment did not sell. 
       
      However, in December, a gorgeously carved and figure-embellished wanyugu, Lot_42, a fine example of the Senufo fire-spitter mask with provenance from Philipp Goldman, Helmut Gernsheim and Keller (GFK 129) far exceeded its 25-30 000 EUR estimate and achieved a final sales price of 50 400 EUR.  (For more on the art and culture of the Senufo, see Anita Glaze's Art and Death in a Senufo Village (Bloomington:  Indiana University Press, 1981).)
      Lot 42:  Senufo wanyugu mask (December)
       
      Another mask which achieved a reasonably high sale price was Lot_33:_A_Dan_or_Tura(Toura)_Mask which came from G. F. Keller (GFK 58) -- distinguished by the large brass bell beneath the chin which anchored a semi-circle of bass bells which surrounded the face of the mask.  The mask exceeded its 25-30 000 EUR estimate with a price of 31 200.   However, only one other Dan, Dan-Mano or Dan-Gio lot -- of more than a dozen offered --  exceeded its estimate -- Lot_47, a group of four Dan or Mano passport masks (all of which are numbered Keller pieces and two of which have detailed collection data), which sold for 2 280 EUR, well above a 1-1500 EUR estimate.  Three of four other Dan complex passport offerings either did not sell (Lot_46 -- a mixed grouping), sold within the range (Lot_44 -- a group of 3 from Keller collected in Man by Morigi) or sold below the estimate (Lot_43, a single mask, and Lot_45 -- a group of 3 from Keller, two with collection data from Morigi).  The results in June for similar passport mask offerings was on a par with these results in December.
      Lot 33:  Dan or Tura (Toura) Mask (December)
       
      Other Dan lots received mixed responses:  Lot_34 -- a Dan-Gio brass statuette of a soldier that was published by Fischer and Himmelheber (1984), Lot_35 -- a brass figure collected in Zia, Namib County, and Lot_36 -- a wonderful brass Dan/Mano ze me portraying two "acrobatic dancers" --  also collected in Namib County --  all failed to sell; Lot_37,  a heavily provenanced (GFK 139 and Mario Fantin) zamble mask;  Lot_40,  a Dan face mask -- with repairs -- from Keller (GFK 350) and a Southern Dan beaked mask from Han Coray (Lot_59) (HC 179) also went unsold.  further, a Southern Dan (or possibly Guere) lot, a Wakemia anthropomorphic spoon from Keller (GFK 38) and Rene Rasmussen failed to sell (as did the wakemia offered in June).  But, Lot_52, a Dan/Gio Anthropo-zoomorphic mask collected by Morigi in Butulu and from the collections of Keller (GFK 44) and Fantin achieved the mid-range of its estimate at 33 600 EUR after Lot_51, a nice Dan-Guere face mask with a modest 7-10 000 EUR estimate failed to sell. As with the passport masks, Dan masks offered in June had a similarly tepid response with 3 Dan, 2 Kran and 2 Kru masks not selling, 1 Kru mask selling well below its 8-12 000 EUR estimate and the already noted sale of Lot_100, the mysterious and intriguing anthropo-zoomorphic face mask with the hand!
      Lot 41:  Bete Gle Mask (December)
      Among the offered lots in December was only one Bete item, Lot_41, a Gle mask collected by Morigi in 1962 in the region of Daloa, which also passed through the collection of Keller (GFK 124) and Fantin.  (One other unsold object, Lot_68, was a staff with a possible Bete -- or Guro -- attribution.)   Perhaps most intriguing about the Bete Gle mask which sold is the mention in the supporting text of the little known culture from which the form originated, the Niaboua.  However, the mask itself also exhibits a magnificent form worthy of the achievement of its 30 000 EUR selling prices (in the middle of its 25-35 000 EUR range).  Although the mask's basic general form is not uncommon, this particular example exhibits a skill and artistry in carving that achieves a plasticity, a remarkable tension and elasticity like fabric over a frame rarely seen in wood carving.
       
      The December lots from the Baule were apparently superceded by those presented in June.   Half of the 10 Baule lots (7 figures of figure pairs and 3 masks) offered in June were offered and sold for prices generally higher than those anticipated at the more recent December auction.  Reference has already been made above to the two particularly fine works which were among the highlight of the earlier auction, Lots June_Lot_90 and June_Lot_114, both of exceptional form and quality with the latter further distinguished by its rich patina resulting from the application of natural pigment dyeka, no longer in use.  In December, five Baule figures human figures -- either blolo bla or bian or asie asu -- with provenances through Keller, Fantin and Henri Epstein were offered in ranges from 5-7 000 EUR to 15-20 000 EUR but did not sell. 
      Lot 60:  Baule Gbekre Figure (December)
      Rather, the Baule figure that commanded attention and a high selling price in December was Lot_60:_A_Baule_Gbekre_Monkey_Figure_with_Cup -- from Andre Lefevre, Charles Ratton and Keller (GFK 153) -- that sold at its low estimate of 120 000 EUR.    According to the auction catalogue notes,the small Gbekre figure (20") which did sell, is presumed to belong to the "category of amwin, or 'objects of power'...used by men-only initiation societies for a number of purposes, both functional – as a basis for prophylactic practices, linked to agrarian rites or to a form of divination known as mbra (Bouloré in RMN, 2000: 107 et Vogel, 1997: 221-230) – and iconographic, each type being designated by a specific term (aboya, mbotumbo, ndyadan, gbekre...).  Here, the depiction of a monkey chewing on a root links it, in our opinion, with the aboya statues used by the diviner-healer when consulting the spirits as part of the practice of mbra (see Boyer in Barbier-Mueller, 1993: 358-362).  For a more complete consideration of this class of Baule objects, and Baule "art" and culture, see Susan Mullin Vogel's Baule:  African Art, Western Eyes (New Haven:  Yale University Art Gallery and Press, 1997).
       
      Six of eight Guro objects presented in December have already been considered above among the opening lots of heddle pulleys.  A possibly Guro -- or Bete -- ceremonial staff (Lot_68) has also already been mentioned above.  The only other Guro offering in December, Lot_61 -- a standing female figure from Keller (GFK 136) did not sell in spite of the success of Guro offerings in June with Lot_102, the orange-eyed heddle pulley , and Lot_104,the female Figure, in that auction.  Extreme selectivity among Guro objects -- true for selections within cultural groupings generally in spite of rich provenance histories --  was also the norm at the November 11 auction at Sotheby's in New York with the notable sale of that date's Lot 104: A Guro Mask "possibly acquired from Julius Carlebach" at $84K -- which sold for well above the $30-50K estimate whereas other Guro and related works from that sale featuring works from the Britt Family Collection were not so successfully offered.
       
      A culture complex that was represented in the December auction by just two objects is that of the Anyi-Sanwi of Southern Ghana.  These terra cotta mma, Lot_49  and Lot_50  were both unsold.  Peripheral to the canonical forms and traditions of African art in the Western world, it is perhaps a matter of time until such objects command the interest and attention of scholars and bidders alike!  Another pair of offerings came from among the Gurunsi of Burkina Faso.  Lot_65, an extremely detailed Brass Anklet from Keller (GFK 27) with a modest estimate went unsold, while  a lot of three Gurunsi flutes, (Lot_67), sold for 1 920 EUR, just below its 2000 EUR low estimate.
       
      On the other hand, both of the two December 6 lots from the Dogon -- among the most well explored, documented and exhibited African cultures and forms (thanks in great part to their grand simplicity as well as decades of profound interest by scholars like Marcel Griaule, Germaine Dieterlin and Helene Leloup among others) --  were extremely well received and either met or far exceeded their estimates.  The first of the two Dogon objects offered did in fact achieve the highest sale price for any single object sold that day.  (There were no Dogon lots offered in June.)  The first, Lot_53, a 23.5" Standing Female Figure with Bent Knees from the Southern Bandiagara region pictured at the start of this article, collected before 1930 and attributed with an origin at least as early as the 19th century, bore provenance through both George F. Keller (GFK 22) and Han Coray (HC 13).  Likely as much in appreciation of the figure's apparent age and its compelling simplicity and elegance of form, this figure offered with a pre-auction estimate of 70-100 000 EUR accomplished a final selling price of 236 000 EUR. 
                            Lot 55:  Dogon Maternity Figure (December)              
                                      
      The second Dogon figure (above), another female form -- this one a kneeling maternity figure bearing two unexplained metal rings and exhibiting an indescribable aged patina and generally captivating presence -- was collected by Coray in the 1920's and constituted part of his original collection (HC 5).  Offered as Lot_55, this mesmerizing figure sold comfortably in the middle of its estimated range (20-30 000 EUR) at 24 000 EUR.  While I might have expected this figure to follow the suit of the other Dogon offering by far exceeding this modest reserve, its conservative result is consistent with a general sales pattern in which one or two objects from each culture complex -- or within classes of objects from traditions that have produced more plentiful and varied classes and sub-styles of objects -- elicit the primary attention of the audience and strong prices) while fine objects from the same group (or class) are passed or merely achieve unremarkable final prices in the shadows of stellar figures and sales.  (In this regard, see also the Senufo and Kota results at this auction, for example.)
       
      The largest number of works representing specific areas or culture groups in December were those from the Dan-Gio complex (already discussed) and those from the Yoruba --  each represented by 15 offerings. (Note:  The Dan-Gio-Mano offerings included a number of group lots and objects with indeterminate attribution, thus making the total number only approximate and dependent on the way in which these indeterminate objects are classified and counted!)   In June, six Yoruba lots offered produced just one sale in spite of the richness of their forms and the quality of their artistry.  The lone sold Yoruba lot  in June was Lot_116:_A_Ceremonial_Axe from Helene Kamer (Leloup) and Keller (GFK 117), which drew a final price of 10 800 EUR, under an estimate of 12-18 EUR.  As with the lots from all groups and regions which were offered both in June and December, provenances and documentation were generally substantial. 
       
      In the December 6 auction, fifteen objects from the Yoruba were presented.  Of the 15 lots offered in December, eight of them did indeed sell at or above their estimates -- which were (with only one higher exception which did not sell) in the 1.5-7 000 EUR range as opposed to the 7-20 000 EUR range of the June lots.  Among December's Yoruba lots were four Ibeji pairs -- Lots 81, 91, 93 and 97 with estimates of 1 200 - 3 5 00.  Lot_81, a well-worn Oyo Region pair without adornments and Lot_97, a richly decorated and well-worn sandal-footed pair (Keller 345) with a variety of beaded collars and anklets, bracelets and other materials including long strands of cowries were the two of four lots which both sold well beyond their estimates for 3 360 and 5 040, respectively. Lot 91, the only male-male pair (the other three were male-female) and Lot 92 did not sell.  Of the two ivory Iroke Ifa (divination tappers) --  Lots 87 and 88 (GFK 182 and 181) --  offered with the same estimate of 1 500-2 500 EUR, only the latter sold at 3 120 EUR.  
       Lot 82:  Eshu -- Yoruba Ceremonial Wand (December)
       
      Lot_71, An_Oshe_Shango_Dance_Wand, offered with an estimate of 10-15 000 EUR and the only Yoruba offering in a higher estimate range, did not sell while Lot_82, a Ceremonial Wand depicting Eshu with a characteristically elongated and ornately carved coiffure exceeded its 2-3 000 EUR estimate when it sold for 3 840 EUR. In like manner, only Lot_89, the first of two offered brass edan pairs was sold, within its range for 2 640 EUR  while the second pair, Lot_90,  offered with the same estimate, failed to sell.  Two carved wooden figures representing Eshu-Elegba were offered: Lot_83 (GFK 172) from the Oyo Region was presented with a 5-7 000 EUR estimate but did not sell, while a second example (GFK180)  -- with gourds (suggestive of contained magical substances associated with the deity) atop the head and in one hand and a saber in the other -- sold above its estimate of 1 200 - 1 800 EUR when it achieved a final price of 2 040 EUR. Finally, Lot_92, a tiny (6.5") "YORUBA FIGURE, PROBABLY KETU REGION, SOUTH-WEST NIGERIA" portraying a kneeling female figure also sold above its estimate (1 200 - 1 800) at 2 040 EUR while the sole Yoruba mask offered, Lot_86   A Gelede mask with a kneeling female figure as its super-structure, estimated at 4-5 000 EUR did not sell.
       
      The Yoruba offerings constituted the majority of lots from the regions and cultures of Nigeria.  Among the limited number of Nigerian works from other traditions was Lot_95, a well-sold 19th century Edo-Benin bronze iyoba (queen mother) head from both Han Coray and Keller (GFK 200) that received a final price of 42 000 EUR.  Lot_72, an Ibibio/Eket "reliquary altar statue" from Emil Storrer and Keller (GFK 204) with an estimate of 30-40 000 EUR did not sell, nor did Lot_80, the highest estimated Ekoi/Ejagham Skin-Covered Crest in spite of its unique coiffure.  Two other less elaborate, more naturalistic Ekoi/Ejagham crests, Lots 78 and 79, the latter particularly expressive, did sell with Lot 78 ending low in its estimate range at 5 040 EUR and Lot 79 (perhaps the bargain of the day...) selling for a mere 1 200 EUR, well below its -2-3 000 EUR estimate (which I think was low to begin!)  A mask equally intriguing as Lot 79 was the solitary Igbo lot, an Idiok Ekpo formerly from Rene Rasmussen, sold at the low end of its range for 8 400 EUR.  The final Nigerian lot was a diminutive (8") Ogoni hinged-jaw mask with richly detailed scarification and hair details bearing provenance from Ernst Ascher and Keller (GFK 211) that just exceeded its modest estimate of 3-4 000 EUR at 4 320.
       
      Having previously noted the stellar sales of works from Cameroon offered from the Morigi Collection in June, there were just two Grasslands lots offered in this week's auction.  The excitement generated by the Buffalo Mask sold in June did not recur with the offering of a second Buffalo Mask as Lot_98 in December.  This Northwest Cameroon Grasslands zoomorphic mask with a conservative pre-auction estimate of 7-9 000 EUR did not sell.  Nor did the only other Grasslands offering, Lot_99, a "Babanki-Tungo or Kom" Helmet mask from Keller (GFK 221) with fine geometric openwork on the coiffure in spite of the reasonably high expected range between 20 and 30 000 EUR.  The only object from Cameroon which did sell was Lot_96, an undistinguished Namji doll from Northern Cameroon.  Its 2-3 000 EUR estimate seemed unusually high for such a figure and, in fact, while it did sell, it sold at a price much lower than estimated, 1 200 EUR but still higher than other like objects currently in circulation.  A pair of tou-poum beaded textile Elephant mask lots (Lots 155 and 156 ) were also sold above or in their ranges in June. 
       
      Now, we move southward geographically although the actual auction order did in fact precede the Nigerian and Cameroonian offerings with the Kota figures and then jump downward to the Congolese lots.  With regard to the Kota lots, we have earlier considered the mixed results achieved by the three offered examples in June;  one sold well, while two others did not sell earlier this year.  So, back to December...
       
      In December, a total of five Kota Mbulu Ngulu were offered.  Now I must admit that I find it challenging to recognize and distinguish examples from within this class of object. So, it wasn't until I looked back once more at the June catalogue to compare and contrast once more the offerings then with the December lots that I realized that two of the five December Mbulu Ngulu figures were in fact the two which did not sell in June.   June's_Lot_167, with provenance through Trampitsch and Keller offered in June with an estimate of 70-90 000 EUR was re-offered in December as December's_Lot_74 with an estimate of 45-60 000 EUR.  This classical style mbulu ngulu (GFK 368) again failed to sell.  June's_Lot_173 was again the Matisse-Morigi Mbulu Ngulu offered previously in June with a 100-150 000 EUR estimate, offered as December's_Lot_77 with a 80-100 000 EUR estimate.  Same "mbulu ngulu, de très belle ligne,"  same result:  again unsold. 
      Lot 74:  Kota Mbulu Ngulu (December), previously offered as June Lot 167
       
      In addition to these two figures above, however, three more Kota mbulu ngulu figures were offered this week.  December_Lot_73, a "new" classical example -- Perrois Category IV, Chaffin Groupe 17) offered with an estimate of 30-50 000 EUR and December_Lot_76, another "classic" example from the Franceville region with provenance including Rebecca Harkness and Pierre Luigi Ciucci, were offered with an estimate of 30-40 000 EUR, both failed to sell.  However, December_Lot_75, yet another Classical style example from the Obamba or Mindoumou in the region of Franceville (Perrois Category IV, Variant 3 and Chaffin Groupe 17) described in the catalogue as "pre-contact and a style no doubt at its apogee" and noted for its "archaic characteristics:  hemispheric eyes, no mouth, slim silhouette" formerly from the collection of Andre Fourquet DID SELL and sold for 168 000 EUR.  Amen.  (One additional lot offered from the Kota which did sell was Lot_128, a Kota Osele or Musele, a Knife which sold within its range for 1 200 EUR.)
      Lot 75:  Kota Mbulu Ngulu (December)
       
      With the Mbulu Ngulu figures now identified and accounted for, we are in the home stretch.  Of the 35 remaining lots from the Morigi Collection -- consisting of works from roughly a dozen Congolese, Zairean and Angolan regions and cultures, only 8 objects were sold.  That is not to say that the commercial success of the objects reflects upon the quality or significance of the objects.  Rather, though, it becomes clear that the most prized works from the collection are among those which came from the areas in which Morigi was most directly involved. Too, it is important to note (and I have tried to do so) that some of the December results may be best considered in light of the previous offerings from the collection in June.
       
      Among the first group of objects offered in December from Central Africa were five Kuba cups and/or lidded containers interspersed throughout the remaining lots -- none of which were sold:  An Anthropomorphic Cup (100) and a Cephalomorphic Cup (101) with estimates of 6-9 000 and 7-10 000 EUR, respectively, did not sell.  Nor did a pair of Kuba Lidded Containers (123), A Cup with Figural Handle (125) from Ernst Ascher circa 1930-40 or a beautifully carved Cup with Geometric Design and Inlaid Faience (129) from Han Coray (HC 467) in spite of lower estimates in the 1 000 - 2 500 EUR range.  Similarly, a related Lele Full-Human-Figured Cup with Handle (102) which exhibited a fineness of carving and a lustrous finish as well as provenance through "Timmerman, Stanleyville" and Keller did not achieve a sale with an estimate of 10-15 000 EUR. 
       
      However, in regard to objects of this class and region from the Morigi Collection, it should be noted that related Kuba (and Pende) lots in June -- cups, boxes, clysters -- did sell, although generally below their estimates (Est. 800-5 000 EUR);  eleven of twelve June lots of Kuba and/or Pende functional objects sold in the previous event with ten in a range from 600 to 1920 EUR.  The eleventh lot, June_Lot_185, A Kuba Lidded Box previously in the collections of Andre Lefevre and Charles Ratton exceeded its 3-5 000 EUR estimate when it sold for 5 760 EUR.  The twelfth lot, June_Lot_189:_A_Kuba_Anthropomorphic_Cup, previously held by Patricia Withofs, Alain Schoeffel and George Keller (GFK 278) failed to sell when offered with a 40-50 000 EUR estimate.
       
      One of three Pende lots offered in December, Lot_118, a panya ngombe mask from the Western Kasai region was sold while two additional Pende lots, 121 and 122, featuring two and three ikhoko pendants with lot estimates of 1-1 500 EUR and 2-2 500 EUR, respectively, did not sell.  The latter group, including beaded embellishments and a quite unususal aluminum example (the other four were ivory) was perhaps the most undervalued and under-appreciated lot of the day.
       
       
       
       
      Also in June, five of ten Kongo lots offered were then sold.  These included: June_Lot_166, a nkisi power figure from Daniel Hourde (14 400 EUR); June_Lot_168, an elaborately scarified pfemba Maternity with rare, upright seated child [Lehuard's Yombe sub-style K5] (38 400); and June_Lot_198, a Kongo nafu maluangu, a nkimba initiation rattle portraying twins Makualoa and Mutundu from Coray and Keller (GFK 254) for 9 600 EUR.  Three additional minkisi (sing. nkisi) and one additional pfemba had also been offered In June along with a spoon and a fly swatter that sold and a minute (4") ivory female figure which did not.
       
      None of the three Kongo/Vili/Yombe objects that were offered in December with a broad range of estimates were sold in spite of various visual, artistic and/or historical attributes that served to distinguish them as significant objects.  These lots included a finely carved Yombe staff (103) with a 4-6 000 EUR estimate; a Polychrome Vili or Yombe Mask (104) collected in 1898 with an estimate of 8-12 000 EUR; and most notably, a featured Lot (105), an exquisite, early Kongo-Yombe Pfemba Seated Female Figure formerly in the Bischofsberger Collection
      that was both canonical as well as intriguing for the appearance of unique markings and features suggestive of an early creation date.  To illustrate this poin

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    • Rand African Art
      Lee, Thanks for the fantastic recap of the auctions, it was a pleasure to finally get to read it. I am sure that took some time to compile and it is
      Message 2 of 2 , Dec 21, 2005
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        Lee,
        Thanks for the fantastic recap of the auctions, it was a pleasure to finally get to read it. I am sure that took some time to compile and it is appreciated. The market on all levels is hard to understand at times, but the high end auction market can be even more difficult to digest at times. The way you compiled this recap of the auctions is truly valuable to anyone who is striving to keep their finger on the pulse of the African art market today.
         
        I was amazed that there was such a large percentage of items that did not sell at both the June and December auctions. 78 out of 124 lots as you mention from the December auction went unsold and a few of them were surprising to me, especially the Yombe Pfemba figure, Lot 105,  which was probably one of my favorite lots. I will agree with you that the Bete mask, Lot 41, was a remarkable piece.
         
        Cheers!
        RAND

        LRubinstein@... wrote:
        Review of the Sale of Works from the Paolo Morigi Collection at Sotheby's (Paris) on Tuesday, December 6, 2005
        by Lee Rubinstein (lrubinstein@...)
        Lot 53:  Dogon Female Figure (December 6)
         
        The Paolo Morigi Collection -- of which a portion was offered by Sotheby's Paris on December 6, 2005 --  has been among the most notable and esteemed collections of African art assembled during the 20th century.  As a collector, Morigi drew upon both 1) his well documented interactions with other great 20th century European collectors such as George F. Keller (who notably succeeded Paul Guillaume as the primary advisor to Albert Barnes in forming his important collection of European and African art) and Han Coray, both from whom Morigi ultimately acquired already prestigious collections -- in part or in full -- to add to his own in the last third of the century and 2) his own personal interest and passion which led him to travel,learn and collect throughout West Africa.  As such, the Morigi collection was created through the acquisition (and re-acquisition) of works from the sources of canonical European presentations of African sculpture as well as thorough the introduction of firsthand knowledge and works directly gathered by Morigi on his journeys through (mostly West) Africa.  Thus, the works offered in this most recent auction -- as well as the auction which was held six months ago on June 6 -- represented an opportunity to partake of a objects recognizable for their inherent qualities and indigenous import as well as for a rich history of Western appreciation for these forms and traditions.
         
                                            Lot 128:  Bamum Caryatid Throne (June)
         
        The June_6_Auction  -- in which just under half (73) of the 150 lots offered were sold for a total of 2 288 120 EUR included the noteworthy sale of June Lot 128, the Bamum_Caryatid_Throne from the the collection of Etienne Bignou which had been originally presented internationally in the 1935 exhibition of "African Negro Sculpture" at New York's Museum of Modern Art and through the photographs created by Walker Evans in conjunction with that historic exhibition.  The 549 600 EUR sale price of the Bamum Throne --- though below the pre-auction estimate of 600-900 000 EUR -- make it among the higher recorded sales amounts for any single African work in recent years as well as a significant exception to lackluster responses to Cameroon Grasslands offerings at recent auctions.  Sales of additional Grasslands works such as Lot 130, a Kom_Akam_Mask(GFK_223), placed an exclamation mark with that mask's exceeding of the high estimate of 50,000 EUR with a final price with premium of 60 000 EUR as did the sale of June Lot 164, a Bamileke_Ku'ngan_Society_Buffalo_Mask (GFK 224) at 102 000 EUR -- 12 000 EUR beyond the high pre-auction estimate of 90,000 EUR.  (Note:  Throughout the article, "GFK ###" refers to the catalogue number from the former collection of George F. Keller.  "HC ###" indicates cataloguing in the former Han Coray Collection.)
         
        Other fine works and strong sales in June included:  Lot 90, George de Mire's Baule Seated Male Figure (GFK 150) sold below its opening estimate of 300 000 EUR but still eliciting 236 000 EUR;  Lot_114: A_Baule_Seated_Female_Figure(GFK_145);below its estimate at 280 800 EUR;   Lot 104 -- the rare Guro Statue (GFK 135), a female form acquired by Ernst Ascher in the late 1920's for 120 000 EUR; a Kota_Mbulu_Ngulu_(GFK_230) , Lot 172, classified as Chaffin Group 8 and Perrois Category VI which had been gathered in 1910 by General Dagnan (identified as a friend of Andre Fourquet's family and the source of a number of piece's in the collection of Fourquet).  While this particular figure, the Dagnan-Morigi figure sold for 120 000 EUR, another offered lot (173), a classical Kota referred to as the Matisse-Morigi_Mbulu_Ngulu which was offered in a similar six-figure range did not achieve a sale on June 6 nor did Lot 167(GFK 368).  (Another classical Mbulu Ngulu did, however, become the only example of this form sold of the five Mbulu Ngulu lots offered -- or re-offered -- on December 6, as you will see below.)
         
        The final featured work which did sell at the June 6 auction was a unique and multiply provenanced Songye_Male_Cup_Bearer (ref. GFK 304 and HC 525) that fell short of its pre-auction opening estimate of 350 000 EUR but still managed to command a final 280 800 EUR selling-price-with-premium, equaling the price achieved for Lot 114.  (Note:  All sale prices quoted in this article do include the Buyer's Premium whereas pre-auction estimates, of course, do not.) 
         
        Before proceeding to a review of the December 6 auction, a few other details regarding offered lots in June -- both sold and unsold -- are worth noting.  Among the sales which were transacted was that of a featured mask, Lot 100,  that, while missing its opening pre-auction estimate of 50-70,000 EUR, did receive a final price of 48,000 EUR.  However, it is not the sale details that are so deserving of attention but rather the remarkable and mysterious form of the mask itself, a Northern Liberian Dan Anthropo-zoomorphic_Face_Mask (GFK 46 as well as having been in the collections of Ralph Nash and Helmut Gersheim) with the projectile flange resolving in a hand in front of the face.  This forceful and intriguing mask, believed to have originated in Wobe country, represents a rare example of a traditional form no longer in existence and thus bears the secrets of Society belief and practices no longer in evidence in the region to which it has been traced. 
        Lot 100: Northern Liberian Dan Anthropo-zoomorphic Mask  (June)
         
        In contrast, Lot 107, a Senufo_Kpeliye'e, which was featured but did not sell, represents a more recurrently produced and familiar form that serves to represent the continuity of traditional forms as well.  Finally, the last of the featured lots from the June auction which has not been mentioned (and which did not sell) was Lot_121, a well patinated, finely carved and variously embellished Igala_Figure (GFK 203) from Nigeria that stands as a reminder of traditions and forms that remain relatively unexplored and unrecognized but which beckon further research and broader appreciation of forms outside of the canons which define commercial interest in the arts and cultures of Africa.
                                         Lot 121:  Igala Fetish Statue (June)
         
        So, with the June auction now fading into the past (but, I hope, not an interest in many of the forms and traditions presented), we now look more closely at this week's Collection_Paolo_Morigi_December_6_2005 auction at which 124 objects from the Paolo Morigi Collection were offered.  The offerings were presented along a fairly standard, recognizable geographical route, beginning in West Africa, moving along the Guinea Coast, rounding briefly into the Sahel and then journeying Eastward through Nigeria, down through Cameroon through Gabon and into Zaire...with a few circles through the regions occupied by contiguous cultures.  In order to properly consider these objects, reference will also be made to June offerings from similar and related lots so as to offer a broader view of the offering of this Collection as a whole.
        Lot 85:  Baule Heddle Pulley (June)
        After the presentation of a small group of Oceanic objects (which are not within our consideration), the December auction's first African objects were 8 lots (Lots 11-16, 18-19) of Dan-Gio (1), Baule (1) and Guro (6) heddle pulleys.  Three of six Guro lots were sold  -- including Lot_16 with Storrer/Keller provenance within its estimate range at 1560 EUR,  Lot_13 from Liotard above its range at 2160 EUR and Lot_16 below its range but at the highest price of 3360 EUR.  Of the three Guro pulleys that were passed, two lacked specific data (beyond, of course, the Morigi provenance which applies to all lots in the auction) and another with the highest estimate (3-5K EUR) had a publication history by Fischer and Homberger.  The unsold Dan-Gio example had no specific data, whereas the Baule heddle pulley with provenance through Ernst Ascher (c. 1930) and Keller (GFK 163) also failed to sell.  An additional Ivoirian Senufo Heddle Pulley with no specific data also was passed.  However, it should be noted that there were twelve related lots offered in June -- of which eight were sold.  Three Guro and one Baule pulleys were passed;  four Baule single pulleys, a Senufo pulley  and a Baule-Guro pair of heddle pulleys sold below their estimates.  One lot, however, June_Lot_85, a Baule pulley, exceeded its estimate of 8-12 000 EUR and achieved a final price of 16 800 EUR at the June auction while a Guro heddle pulley (June_Lot_102) with orange glass inset eyes achieved a sale within its estimate when it sold for 9 600 EUR.
         
         
        Lot 102:  Guro Heddle Pulley (June)
         
        A total of six steatite objects without detailed collection data -- three pomtan (sing., pomdo) and three nomoli -- were offered in December as Lots 21-26.  Of the three Kissi pomtan from Guinea, one, Lot_22, was sold for 1560 EUR -- at the low end of its range of 1500-2500 EUR -- while the other two offered in a similar range did not sell.  However, all three of the Sierra Leonean Nomoli objects, a Sherbro pair of figures (Lot_23: 3360 EUR), a non-specified Sierra Leonean figure (Lot_24: 2,640 EUR) and a Sherbro Nomoli head (Lot_26: 5,640 EUR) all sold above or within their estimate ranges.  None of the six lots carried any specific source data.  (For an excellent, brief introduction to these mysterious stone figures, generally uncovered during the preparation of agricultural lands and attributed to the region's previous inhabitants, see pages 47-53 in Donna Page's title essay in Artists and Patrons in Traditional Cultures:  African Sculpture from the Gary Schulze Collection [ISBN 0-9764756-0-X].) 
                     
         
        Drawing upon objects from within the same region in more recent times, there were three Sande Society Sowei Bundu masks, all collected by Morigi in the early 1960's, offered with estimates ranging from 4000-8000 EUR.  Lot #17, a Mende_or_Bassa_Helmet_Mask collected in 1963 did not sell.   Lot_38:_A_Mende_Helmet_Mask , collected in Sierra Leone in the early 60's,  and Lot_48:_A_Gola_Helmet_Mask, collected in Montserrado County, Liberia during the same period were sold below their estimates for 3600 EUR and 3000 EUR respectively.  In June, two of three Bundu masks offered sold.  Both which sold went below their ranges, although their ranges were much higher (20-35,000 EUR for the first
        piece which sold).  The Mende mask which sold (Lot #87 in the June auction) was quite unique, exhibiting exquisite patina and a standing figure gripping the back of the mask's coiffure:  Mende_Helmet_Mask_with Figure .  The second mask of this type which sold in June, Lot_136:_A_Gola_Helmet_Mask collected in 1984 -- again from Montserrado County, brought 9600 EUR, rather below its 12-15000 EUR pre-auction estimate. 
         
        However, the relative coolness of response to this canonical form is noteworthy and may reflect a general reaction to the abundance of examples -- both authentic and inauthentic -- currently found on the market at various levels of quality and price.  The extreme diversity arising from among the numerous cultures and regions in which the Sande societies exist may further challenge the ability of collectors to select and commit to higher-priced offerings of this form.  Also, in spite of Morigi's tendency to value and collect the most complete masquerade ensembles, none of the Sowei helmet masks offered in either auction included the raffia fiber skirting that embellishes the most compelling -- and prized examples of this canonical mask form.  (For a rich array of examples as well as field analysis of masks of this type, see Ruth B. Phillips, Representing Woman:  Sande Masquerades of the Mende of Sierra Leone. (Los Angeles:  UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History.  1995) [ISBN 0-930741-45-5]
         
        Two face masks from the general region, identified as Dey (but exhibiting characteristics also associated with Bassa masks), which were collected by Morigi in Montserrado County in 1962/63 -- Lot_30 and Lot_31 -- were offered with pre-auction estimates of 3-5 000 Euros.  Only the latter sold, for 3840 EUR.  A Dey_Or_Bassa_Mask, offered as Lot 135 in June with an estimate of 10-14 000 EUR went unsold in that earlier auction.
         
        Lot 28:  Lobi Bateba Phuwe (December)
        One Lobi object was offered in the December auction (and none in June).  The lone Lobi figure, Lot_28 , a large (31") figure with bold form, a fissure in the torso and missing feet, was included in Piet Meyer's Kunst und Religion der Lobi (Zurich:  Museum Reitberg, 1981) and sold well -- in its range (30 000- 40 000) for 33 600 EUR. 
         
        The lot which preceded the Lobi figure was the first of three Bamana N'tomo masks which were offered.  The first, Lot_27, a Seven-Horned Bamana or Marka N'tomo Mask with Copper Leafing (and multiple provenances GFK 12 and Gernsheim) -- with a pre-auction estimate of 50-70 000 EUR --  did not sell.  Nor did Lot_32, a two-horned Bamana N'tomo mask with signs of metal appliques no longer present from Han Coray (HC 69).  However, the third example (the second of the three offered), Lot_29 was a spectacular N'tomo mask from the Segou region, one of a small number of known examples with a figure of Faro, the androgynous Bamana water god, carved prominently between two pairs of horns on either side.  This impressive mask did indeed sell within its estimated range of 70-100 000 EUR when it achieved a selling price-with-premium of 84 000 EUR. 
         
        Lot 29:  Bamana N'tomo Mask, Segou Region (December)
         
        Four Senufo lots were presented in the December auction, and as in the November 11 auction at Sotheby's in New York (featuring works from the Britt Family Collection), the majority did not sell.  In addition to an unsold heddle pulley (Lot_20) from the Senufo, Lot_39, a korobla "hybrid animal" mask, failed to sell, as did Lot_56 -- a well documented and exhibited deble, or rhythm pounder (also poropi:ibèlé ou do:ogèlé:  see Auction Notes for Lot_56).  In June, only one of the two Senufo objects offered found a buyer:  Lot_108:_A_Senufo_Equestrian_Figure sold for 3 000 EUR, below its 4-6 000 EUR pre-auction estimate while Lot_107:_A_Senufo_Mask, a Kpeliye'e distinguished by three smaller faces (above and to the sides) as embellishment did not sell. 
         
        However, in December, a gorgeously carved and figure-embellished wanyugu, Lot_42, a fine example of the Senufo fire-spitter mask with provenance from Philipp Goldman, Helmut Gernsheim and Keller (GFK 129) far exceeded its 25-30 000 EUR estimate and achieved a final sales price of 50 400 EUR.  (For more on the art and culture of the Senufo, see Anita Glaze's Art and Death in a Senufo Village (Bloomington:  Indiana University Press, 1981).)
        Lot 42:  Senufo wanyugu mask (December)
         
        Another mask which achieved a reasonably high sale price was Lot_33:_A_Dan_or_Tura(Toura)_Mask which came from G. F. Keller (GFK 58) -- distinguished by the large brass bell beneath the chin which anchored a semi-circle of bass bells which surrounded the face of the mask.  The mask exceeded its 25-30 000 EUR estimate with a price of 31 200.   However, only one other Dan, Dan-Mano or Dan-Gio lot -- of more than a dozen offered --  exceeded its estimate -- Lot_47, a group of four Dan or Mano passport masks (all of which are numbered Keller pieces and two of which have detailed collection data), which sold for 2 280 EUR, well above a 1-1500 EUR estimate.  Three of four other Dan complex passport offerings either did not sell (Lot_46 -- a mixed grouping), sold within the range (Lot_44 -- a group of 3 from Keller collected in Man by Morigi) or sold below the estimate (Lot_43, a single mask, and Lot_45 -- a group of 3 from Keller, two with collection data from Morigi).  The results in June for similar passport mask offerings was on a par with these results in December.
        Lot 33:  Dan or Tura (Toura) Mask (December)
         
        Other Dan lots received mixed responses:  Lot_34 -- a Dan-Gio brass statuette of a soldier that was published by Fischer and Himmelheber (1984), Lot_35 -- a brass figure collected in Zia, Namib County, and Lot_36 -- a wonderful brass Dan/Mano ze me portraying two "acrobatic dancers" --  also collected in Namib County --  all failed to sell; Lot_37,  a heavily provenanced (GFK 139 and Mario Fantin) zamble mask;  Lot_40,  a Dan face mask -- with repairs -- from Keller (GFK 350) and a Southern Dan beaked mask from Han Coray (Lot_59) (HC 179) also went unsold.  further, a Southern Dan (or possibly Guere) lot, a Wakemia anthropomorphic spoon from Keller (GFK 38) and Rene Rasmussen failed to sell (as did the wakemia offered in June).  But, Lot_52, a Dan/Gio Anthropo-zoomorphic mask collected by Morigi in Butulu and from the collections of Keller (GFK 44) and Fantin achieved the mid-range of its estimate at 33 600 EUR after Lot_51, a nice Dan-Guere face mask with a modest 7-10 000 EUR estimate failed to sell. As with the passport masks, Dan masks offered in June had a similarly tepid response with 3 Dan, 2 Kran and 2 Kru masks not selling, 1 Kru mask selling well below its 8-12 000 EUR estimate and the already noted sale of Lot_100, the mysterious and intriguing anthropo-zoomorphic face mask with the hand!
        Lot 41:  Bete Gle Mask (December)
        Among the offered lots in December was only one Bete item, Lot_41, a Gle mask collected by Morigi in 1962 in the region of Daloa, which also passed through the collection of Keller (GFK 124) and Fantin.  (One other unsold object, Lot_68, was a staff with a possible Bete -- or Guro -- attribution.)   Perhaps most intriguing about the Bete Gle mask which sold is the mention in the supporting text of the little known culture from which the form originated, the Niaboua.  However, the mask itself also exhibits a magnificent form worthy of the achievement of its 30 000 EUR selling prices (in the middle of its 25-35 000 EUR range).  Although the mask's basic general form is not uncommon, this particular example exhibits a skill and artistry in carving that achieves a plasticity, a remarkable tension and elasticity like fabric over a frame rarely seen in wood carving.
         
        The December lots from the Baule were apparently superceded by those presented in June.   Half of the 10 Baule lots (7 figures of figure pairs and 3 masks) offered in June were offered and sold for prices generally higher than those anticipated at the more recent December auction.  Reference has already been made above to the two particularly fine works which were among the highlight of the earlier auction, Lots June_Lot_90 and June_Lot_114, both of exceptional form and quality with the latter further distinguished by its rich patina resulting from the application of natural pigment dyeka, no longer in use.  In December, five Baule figures human figures -- either blolo bla or bian or asie asu -- with provenances through Keller, Fantin and Henri Epstein were offered in ranges from 5-7 000 EUR to 15-20 000 EUR but did not sell. 
        Lot 60:  Baule Gbekre Figure (December)
        Rather, the Baule figure that commanded attention and a high selling price in December was Lot_60:_A_Baule_Gbekre_Monkey_Figure_with_Cup -- from Andre Lefevre, Charles Ratton and Keller (GFK 153) -- that sold at its low estimate of 120 000 EUR.    According to the auction catalogue notes,the small Gbekre figure (20") which did sell, is presumed to belong to the "category of amwin, or 'objects of power'...used by men-only initiation societies for a number of purposes, both functional – as a basis for prophylactic practices, linked to agrarian rites or to a form of divination known as mbra (Bouloré in RMN, 2000: 107 et Vogel, 1997: 221-230) – and iconographic, each type being designated by a specific term (aboya, mbotumbo, ndyadan, gbekre...).  Here, the depiction of a monkey chewing on a root links it, in our opinion, with the aboya statues used by the diviner-healer when consulting the spirits as part of the practice of mbra (see Boyer in Barbier-Mueller, 1993: 358-362).  For a more complete consideration of this class of Baule objects, and Baule "art" and culture, see Susan Mullin Vogel's Baule:  African Art, Western Eyes (New Haven:  Yale University Art Gallery and Press, 1997).
         
        Six of eight Guro objects presented in December have already been considered above among the opening lots of heddle pulleys.  A possibly Guro -- or Bete -- ceremonial staff (Lot_68) has also already been mentioned above.  The only other Guro offering in December, Lot_61 -- a standing female figure from Keller (GFK 136) did not sell in spite of the success of Guro offerings in June with Lot_102, the orange-eyed heddle pulley , and Lot_104,the female Figure, in that auction.  Extreme selectivity among Guro objects -- true for selections within cultural groupings generally in spite of rich provenance histories --  was also the norm at the November 11 auction at Sotheby's in New York with the notable sale of that date's Lot 104: A Guro Mask "possibly acquired from Julius Carlebach" at $84K -- which sold for well above the $30-50K estimate whereas other Guro and related works from that sale featuring works from the Britt Family Collection were not so successfully offered.
         
        A culture complex that was represented in the December auction by just two objects is that of the Anyi-Sanwi of Southern Ghana.  These terra cotta mma, Lot_49  and Lot_50  were both unsold.  Peripheral to the canonical forms and traditions of African art in the Western world, it is perhaps a matter of time until such objects command the interest and attention of scholars and bidders alike!  Another pair of offerings came from among the Gurunsi of Burkina Faso.  Lot_65, an extremely detailed Brass Anklet from Keller (GFK 27) with a modest estimate went unsold, while  a lot of three Gurunsi flutes, (Lot_67), sold for 1 920 EUR, just below its 2000 EUR low estimate.
         
        On the other hand, both of the two December 6 lots from the Dogon -- among the most well explored, documented and exhibited African cultures and forms (thanks in great part to their grand simplicity as well as decades of profound interest by scholars like Marcel Griaule, Germaine Dieterlin and Helene Leloup among others) --  were extremely well received and either met or far exceeded their estimates.  The first of the two Dogon objects offered did in fact achieve the highest sale price for any single object sold that day.  (There were no Dogon lots offered in June.)  The first, Lot_53, a 23.5" Standing Female Figure with Bent Knees from the Southern Bandiagara region pictured at the start of this article, collected before 1930 and attributed with an origin at least as early as the 19th century, bore provenance through both George F. Keller (GFK 22) and Han Coray (HC 13).  Likely as much in appreciation of the figure's apparent age and its compelling simplicity and elegance of form, this figure offered with a pre-auction estimate of 70-100 000 EUR accomplished a final selling price of 236 000 EUR. 
                              Lot 55:  Dogon Maternity Figure (December)              
                                        
        The second Dogon figure (above), another female form -- this one a kneeling maternity figure bearing two unexplained metal rings and exhibiting an indescribable aged patina and generally captivating presence -- was collected by Coray in the 1920's and constituted part of his original collection (HC 5).  Offered as Lot_55, this mesmerizing figure sold comfortably in the middle of its estimated range (20-30 000 EUR) at 24 000 EUR.  While I might have expected this figure to follow the suit of the other Dogon offering by far exceeding this modest reserve, its conservative result is consistent with a general sales pattern in which one or two objects from each culture complex -- or within classes of objects from traditions that have produced more plentiful and varied classes and sub-styles of objects -- elicit the primary attention of the audience and strong prices) while fine objects from the same group (or class) are passed or merely achieve unremarkable final prices in the shadows of stellar figures and sales.  (In this regard, see also the Senufo and Kota results at this auction, for example.)
         
        The largest number of works representing specific areas or culture groups in December were those from the Dan-Gio complex (already discussed) and those from the Yoruba --  each represented by 15 offerings. (Note:  The Dan-Gio-Mano offerings included a number of group lots and objects with indeterminate attribution, thus making the total number only approximate and dependent on the way in which these indeterminate objects are classified and counted!)   In June, six Yoruba lots offered produced just one sale in spite of the richness of their forms and the quality of their artistry.  The lone sold Yoruba lot  in June was Lot_116:_A_Ceremonial_Axe from Helene Kamer (Leloup) and Keller (GFK 117), which drew a final price of 10 800 EUR, under an estimate of 12-18 EUR.  As with the lots from all groups and regions which were offered both in June and December, provenances and documentation were generally substantial. 
         
        In the December 6 auction, fifteen objects from the Yoruba were presented.  Of the 15 lots offered in December, eight of them did indeed sell at or above their estimates -- which were (with only one higher exception which did not sell) in the 1.5-7 000 EUR range as opposed to the 7-20 000 EUR range of the June lots.  Among December's Yoruba lots were four Ibeji pairs -- Lots 81, 91, 93 and 97 with estimates of 1 200 - 3 5 00.  Lot_81, a well-worn Oyo Region pair without adornments and Lot_97, a richly decorated and well-worn sandal-footed pair (Keller 345) with a variety of beaded collars and anklets, bracelets and other materials including long strands of cowries were the two of four lots which both sold well beyond their estimates for 3 360 and 5 040, respectively. Lot 91, the only male-male pair (the other three were male-female) and Lot 92 did not sell.  Of the two ivory Iroke Ifa (divination tappers) --  Lots 87 and 88 (GFK 182 and 181) --  offered with the same estimate of 1 500-2 500 EUR, only the latter sold at 3 120 EUR.  
         Lot 82:  Eshu -- Yoruba Ceremonial Wand (December)
         
        Lot_71, An_Oshe_Shango_Dance_Wand, offered with an estimate of 10-15 000 EUR and the only Yoruba offering in a higher estimate range, did not sell while Lot_82, a Ceremonial Wand depicting Eshu with a characteristically elongated and ornately carved coiffure exceeded its 2-3 000 EUR estimate when it sold for 3 840 EUR. In like manner, only Lot_89, the first of two offered brass edan pairs was sold, within its range for 2 640 EUR  while the second pair, Lot_90,  offered with the same estimate, failed to sell.  Two carved wooden figures representing Eshu-Elegba were offered: Lot_83 (GFK 172) from the Oyo Region was presented with a 5-7 000 EUR estimate but did not sell, while a second example (GFK180)  -- with gourds (suggestive of contained magical substances associated with the deity) atop the head and in one hand and a saber in the other -- sold above its estimate of 1 200 - 1 800 EUR when it achieved a final price of 2 040 EUR. Finally, Lot_92, a tiny (6.5") "YORUBA FIGURE, PROBABLY KETU REGION, SOUTH-WEST NIGERIA" portraying a kneeling female figure also sold above its estimate (1 200 - 1 800) at 2 040 EUR while the sole Yoruba mask offered, Lot_86   A Gelede mask with a kneeling female figure as its super-structure, estimated at 4-5 000 EUR did not sell.
         
        The Yoruba offerings constituted the majority of lots from the regions and cultures of Nigeria.  Among the limited number of Nigerian works from other traditions was Lot_95, a well-sold 19th century Edo-Benin bronze iyoba (queen mother) head from both Han Coray and Keller (GFK 200) that received a final price of 42 000 EUR.  Lot_72, an Ibibio/Eket "reliquary altar statue" from Emil Storrer and Keller (GFK 204) with an estimate of 30-40 000 EUR did not sell, nor did Lot_80, the highest estimated Ekoi/Ejagham Skin-Covered Crest in spite of its unique coiffure.  Two other less elaborate, more naturalistic Ekoi/Ejagham crests, Lots 78 and 79, the latter particularly expressive, did sell with Lot 78 ending low in its estimate range at 5 040 EUR and Lot 79 (perhaps the bargain of the day...) selling for a mere 1 200 EUR, well below its -2-3 000 EUR estimate (which I think was low to begin!)  A mask equally intriguing as Lot 79 was the solitary Igbo lot, an Idiok Ekpo formerly from Rene Rasmussen, sold at the low end of its range for 8 400 EUR.  The final Nigerian lot was a diminutive (8") Ogoni hinged-jaw mask with richly detailed scarification and hair details bearing provenance from Ernst Ascher and Keller (GFK 211) that just exceeded its modest estimate of 3-4 000 EUR at 4 320.
         
        Having previously noted the stellar sales of works from Cameroon offered from the Morigi Collection in June, there were just two Grasslands lots offered in this week's auction.  The excitement generated by the Buffalo Mask sold in June did not recur with the offering of a second Buffalo Mask as Lot_98 in December.  This Northwest Cameroon Grasslands zoomorphic mask with a conservative pre-auction estimate of 7-9 000 EUR did not sell.  Nor did the only other Grasslands offering, Lot_99, a "Babanki-Tungo or Kom" Helmet mask from Keller (GFK 221) with fine geometric openwork on the coiffure in spite of the reasonably high expected range between 20 and 30 000 EUR.  The only object from Cameroon which did sell was Lot_96, an undistinguished Namji doll from Northern Cameroon.  Its 2-3 000 EUR estimate seemed unusually high for such a figure and, in fact, while it did sell, it sold at a price much lower than estimated, 1 200 EUR but still higher than other like objects currently in circulation.  A pair of tou-poum beaded textile Elephant mask lots (Lots 155 and 156 ) were also sold above or in their ranges in June. 
         
        Now, we move southward geographically although the actual auction order did in fact precede the Nigerian and Cameroonian offerings with the Kota figures and then jump downward to the Congolese lots.  With regard to the Kota lots, we have earlier considered the mixed results achieved by the three offered examples in June;  one sold well, while two others did not sell earlier this year.  So, back to December...
         
        In December, a total of five Kota Mbulu Ngulu were offered.  Now I must admit that I find it challenging to recognize and distinguish examples from within this class of object. So, it wasn't until I looked back once more at the June catalogue to compare and contrast once more the offerings then with the December lots that I realized that two of the five December Mbulu Ngulu figures were in fact the two which did not sell in June.   June's_Lot_167, with provenance through Trampitsch and Keller offered in June with an estimate of 70-90 000 EUR was re-offered in December as December's_Lot_74 with an estimate of 45-60 000 EUR.  This classical style mbulu ngulu (GFK 368) again failed to sell.  June's_Lot_173 was again the Matisse-Morigi Mbulu Ngulu offered previously in June with a 100-150 000 EUR estimate, offered as December's_Lot_77 with a 80-100 000 EUR estimate.  Same "mbulu ngulu, de très belle ligne,"  same result:  again unsold. 
        Lot 74:  Kota Mbulu Ngulu (December), previously offered as June Lot 167
         
        In addition to these two figures above, however, three more Kota mbulu ngulu figures were offered this week.  December_Lot_73, a "new" classical example -- Perrois Category IV, Chaffin Groupe 17) offered with an estimate of 30-50 000 EUR and December_Lot_76, another "classic" example from the Franceville region with provenance including Rebecca Harkness and Pierre Luigi Ciucci, were offered with an estimate of 30-40 000 EUR, both failed to sell.  However, December_Lot_75, yet another Classical style example from the Obamba or Mindoumou in the region of Franceville (Perrois Category IV, Variant 3 and Chaffin Groupe 17) described in the catalogue as "pre-contact and a style no doubt at its apogee" and noted for its "archaic characteristics:  hemispheric eyes, no mouth, slim silhouette" formerly from the collection of Andre Fourquet DID SELL and sold for 168 000 EUR.  Amen.  (One additional lot offered from the Kota which did sell was Lot_128, a Kota Osele or Musele, a Knife which sold within its range for 1 200 EUR.)
        Lot 75:  Kota Mbulu Ngulu (December)
         
        With the Mbulu Ngulu figures now identified and accounted for, we are in the home stretch.  Of the 35 remaining lots from the Morigi Collection -- consisting of works from roughly a dozen Congolese, Zairean and Angolan regions and cultures, only 8 objects were sold.  That is not to say that the commercial success of the objects reflects upon the quality or significance of the objects.  Rather, though, it becomes clear that the most prized works from the collection are among those which came from the areas in which Morigi was most directly involved. Too, it is important to note (and I have tried to do so) that some of the December results may be best considered in light of the previous offerings from the collection in June.
         
        Among the first group of objects offered in December from Central Africa were five Kuba cups and/or lidded containers interspersed throughout the remaining lots -- none of which were sold:  An Anthropomorphic Cup (100) and a Cephalomorphic Cup (101) with estimates of 6-9 000 and 7-10 000 EUR, respectively, did not sell.  Nor did a pair of Kuba Lidded Containers (123), A Cup with Figural Handle (125) from Ernst Ascher circa 1930-40 or a beautifully carved Cup with Geometric Design and Inlaid Faience (129) from Han Coray (HC 467) in spite of lower estimates in the 1 000 - 2 500 EUR range.  Similarly, a related Lele Full-Human-Figured Cup with Handle (102) which exhibited a fineness of carving and a lustrous finish as well as provenance through "Timmerman, Stanleyville" and Keller did not achieve a sale with an estimate of 10-15 000 EUR. 
         
        However, in regard to objects of this class and region from the Morigi Collection, it should be noted that related Kuba (and Pende) lots in June -- cups, boxes, clysters -- did sell, although generally below their estimates (Est. 800-5 000 EUR);  eleven of twelve June lots of Kuba and/or Pende functional objects sold in the previous event with ten in a range from 600 to 1920 EUR.  The eleventh lot, June_Lot_185, A Kuba Lidded Box previously in the collections of Andre Lefevre and Charles Ratton exceeded its 3-5 000 EUR estimate when it sold for 5 760 EUR.  The twelfth lot, June_Lot_189:_A_Kuba_Anthropomorphic_Cup, previously held by Patricia Withofs, Alain Schoeffel and George Keller (GFK 278) failed to sell when offered with a 40-50 000 EUR estimate.
         
        One of three Pende lots offered in December, Lot_118, a panya ngombe mask from the Western Kasai region was sold while two additional Pende lots, 121 and 122, featuring two and three ikhoko pendants with lot estimates of 1-1 500 EUR and 2-2 500 EUR, respectively, did not sell.  The latter group, including beaded embellishments and a quite unususal aluminum example (the other four were ivory) was perhaps the most undervalued and under-appreciated lot of the day.
         
         
         
         
        Also in June, five of ten Kongo lots offered were then sold.  These included: June_Lot_166, a nkisi power figure from Daniel Hourde (14 400 EUR); June_Lot_168, an elaborately scarified pfemba Maternity with rare, upright seated child [Lehuard's Yombe sub-style K5] (38 400); and June_Lot_198, a Kongo nafu maluangu, a nkimba initiation rattle portraying twins Makualoa and Mutundu from Coray and Keller (GFK 254) for 9 600 EUR.  Three additional minkisi (sing. nkisi) and one additional pfemba had also been offered In June along with a spoon and a fly swatter that sold and a minute (4") ivory female figure which did not.
         
        None of the three Kongo/Vili/Yombe objects that were offered in December with a broad range of estimates were sold in spite of various visual, artistic and/or historical attributes that served to distinguish them as significant objects.  These lots included a finely carved Yombe staff (103) with a 4-6 000 EUR estimate; a Polychrome Vili or Yombe Mask (104) collected in 1898 with an estimate of 8-12 000 EUR; and most notably, a featured Lot (105), an exquisite, early Kongo-Yombe <

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