Monthly Archives: November 2014

Notes on a “Dan” figure from the Myron Kunin collection

Kran figure (Liberia). Height: 52,7 cm. Image courtesy of Sotheby's.

Kran figure (Liberia). Height: 52,7 cm. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.

The beautiful female figure shown above was part of the Myron Kunin collection and listed in the catalogue as Dan. A client asked me to do some research on it before considering to bid on it and I hereby gladly share my findings. Although Sotheby’s mentioned none, I was able to discover a handful other figures from this workshop. Distinctive for this style is the treatment of the face and the particular position of the hands: one horizontal, one vertical – unique for this type of sculpture. Only the height of the neck, shape of the breasts and scarifications on the torso differ among the different sculptures from this workshop. Similar details, such as the rendering of the toes, among all figures, could indicate that they in fact were all the work of one single artist, but without handling the statues, it’s of course not possible to come to a definitive conclusion.

Kran figure Liberia Peabody Leipzig

My research became interesting when I discovered the above figure in the collection of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University. The museum’s archives hold an old picture of this female figure, taken by Frederick P. Orchard (based in Liberia) and indicating a precise geographic origin for that figure: Towai in the Kwida Section of Liberia, on the border with Ivory Coast. I was able to locate this place on a map in Schwab & Harley’s Tribes of the Liberian Hinterland (which I discussed recently here) – Towai is indicated in red on the map below. Comparing it with the map from the same book concerning the different peoples living in the area, it became clear this was not Dan, but Kran territory!

map Tribes from the Liberian Hinterland 1

map Tribes from the Liberian Hinterland 2

The Peabody figure was also published in Tribes of the Liberian Hinterland (1947, fig. 71) with the note: “wooden figure by a Kran man”, so the Kran provenance for the figures of this workshop hereby got confirmed. The Dan (‘Ngere or Gio’ on the above map) do lived close by of course. It’s interesting to know that, among the Mano and Dan, the Kran had the reputation of being the best sculptors – so it’s not unlikely Dan patrons commissioned this talented Kran artist to make figures for them.

A Kran couple. Image courtesy of Boris Kegel-Konietzko, Hamburg.

A Kran couple. Image courtesy of Boris Kegel-Konietzko, Hamburg.

African art from the Beyeler Foundation

Mumuye figure. Height: 99 cm (including base). Image courtesy of the Fondation Beyeler.

Mumuye figure. Height: 99 cm (including base). Image courtesy of the Fondation Beyeler.

The above Mumuye figure is one of the major objects in the small, but exquisite African art collection of the Fondation Beyeler in Switzerland. You can browse the other objects in their possession here – there’s a small selection of Oceanic art as well. Their Mbembe figure will be shown during Warriors and Mothers: Epic Mbembe Art opening next month at the Metropolitan (info), while the big Kongo nkisi nkondi will be reunited with the other works of this artist during Kongo: Power and Majesty, also at the MET, end 2015 (info).

Field-photo of the day: an ‘okoroshi’ masquerade among the Usuama Igbo

An okoroshi masquerade featuring the character of Onyejuwe. Photo by G. I. Jones, 1930s, at Eziama Orlu (Isuama Igbo).

An okoroshi masquerade featuring the character of Onyejuwe. Photo by G. I. Jones, 1930s, at Eziama Orlu (Isuama Igbo).

One of the sleepers in the Kunin sale was the below Igbo mask which was much better than its estimate suggested. After doing some research on it I found much more information than was available in the sale catalogue and traced down the masks’ possible village of origin. G.I. Jones photographed a very similar mask among the Isuama Igbo in Eziama Orlu in the 1930s. Comparing the mouth, ears, nose, eyes and eyebrows with the mask under discussion here, it’s very probable this mask was made by the same sculptor.

Igbo mask. Height: 49,3 cm. Image courtesy of Sotheby's.

Igbo mask. Height: 49,3 cm. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Another mask from this artist is in the collection of Yale University. G.I. Jones wrote that the carver of these masks was a professional canoe maker who spent a large part of his time working with his gang in the forests of the northern Delta. (Jones (G.I.), “The art of Eastern Nigeria”, Cambridge, 1984: p. 123).

Igbo mask. Height: 42,6 cm. Image courtesy of the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, USA (2006.51.515).

Igbo mask. Height: 42,6 cm. Image courtesy of the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, USA (2006.51.515).

Okoroshi was a six week Igbo masking season during which water spirits bless the growing crops during the height of the rainy season. White-faced masks generally embodied benign female characters who dance prettily in open arenas for large crowds. They were conceptually opposed to dark masked male characters, often with ugly faces.

There’s another field-photo of this mask during the same performance.

An okoroshi masquerade depicting a close up of two beautiful characters. The one on the right is called Onyejuwe.The character on the left is wearing a white face mask consisting of an oval face with a high forehead with black painted head and a superstructure of two pointed horns and a carved white faced head in the centre; the face of the mask is white with black lines down the centre of the forehead, chin and black diagonal markings on the cheeks. The costume consists of layers of plaid cloth; two cloths are hanging from the wooden headdress.The character on the right, known as Onyejuwe, is wearing a white face mask with an elaborate headdress consisting of two pointed and arched horns emanating from the sides and in the middle are three carved faces painted white. The face of the mask is painted white with black incised coiffure a the top, black lines in the centre of the forehead and on both cheeks; slit eyes, nose and open mouth exaggerated mouth with white teeth. The masquerader is wearing covered in cloth. Photo by G. I. Jones, 1930s, at Eziama Orlu.

An okoroshi masquerade depicting a close up of two beautiful characters. The one on the right is called Onyejuwe.The character on the left is wearing a white face mask consisting of an oval face with a high forehead with black painted head and a superstructure of two pointed horns and a carved white faced head in the centre; the face of the mask is white with black lines down the centre of the forehead, chin and black diagonal markings on the cheeks. The costume consists of layers of plaid cloth; two cloths are hanging from the wooden headdress.The character on the right, known as Onyejuwe, is wearing a white face mask with an elaborate headdress consisting of two pointed and arched horns emanating from the sides and in the middle are three carved faces painted white. The face of the mask is painted white with black incised coiffure a the top, black lines in the centre of the forehead and on both cheeks; slit eyes, nose and open mouth exaggerated mouth with white teeth. The masquerader is wearing covered in cloth. Photo by G. I. Jones, 1930s, at Eziama Orlu.

Eziama Orlu is located at number (28) – in Usuama Igbo territory – on the map below.

Map from Jones (Gwilym Iwan), "The art of Eastern Nigeria", Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

Map from Jones (Gwilym Iwan), “The art of Eastern Nigeria”, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

The Kunin mask most likely represented the same Okoroshi character – called nwanyure (‘proud woman’) – as featured on the field-photo below. Note the very similar iconography.

An Okorosie or Okoroshi masquerade with a ‘beautiful’ female charater. The masquerader is wearing a wooden white face mask that is oval in shape with a superstructure of another carved head with plaits on top. The white face is accentuated with balck markings and with two diagonal lines on the cheeks. The masquerader is draped in several cloths and is holding a clapper in one hand. Photo by G. I. Jones, 1930s, at Eziama Orlu (Isuama Igbo).

An Okorosie or Okoroshi masquerade with a ‘beautiful’ female charater. The masquerader is wearing a wooden white face mask that is oval in shape with a superstructure of another carved head with plaits on top. The white face is accentuated with balck markings and with two diagonal lines on the cheeks. The masquerader is draped in several cloths and is holding a clapper in one hand. Photo by G. I. Jones, 1930s, at Eziama Orlu (Isuama Igbo).

 

100,000 ! (#happy)

BrunoClaessens.com Bruno Claessens African art website

A new milestone, this afternoon brunoclaessens.com was visited for the hundred thousandth time ! Thank you for all your support and encouragement this last 1,5 year. We’re now up to more than 350 visitors a day. I am very grateful for your interest – and patience with my grammar and spelling errors.

Apologies for the technical problems during the last weeks, the website has been offline a couple of times but luckily I could solve everything quickly. This small 250 MB site is currently generating 25 GB in data traffic each month – I’m to blame, since I prefer to use good quality images.

Notes on an Igbo headdress from the Myron Kunin Collection

Height: 76,8 cm. Image courtesy of Sotheby's.

Height: 76,8 cm. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.

The above headdress, lot 57 in the Kunin sale at Sotheby’s New York was listed as Eket in the sale catalogue. Since slightly similar figural crest masks such as this one were illustrated by Francois Neyt in L’art Eket (1979) and other publications, headdresses such as the one under discussion here, have been incorrectly attributed to the this group. The treatment of the face as a curving plane with sharp edges and the disproportionate emphasis on the spherical head indeed are very reminiscent to the well-known Eket stye (compare to the example illustrated at the end of this article).

In reality these headdresses originate from the southern Igbo. G.I. Jones and K.C. Murray visited the Olokoro (an Igbo group) near Umuahia in the late 1930s. Jones photographed a very similar headdress (illustrated below), while Murray collected several examples. Jack S. Harris in 1939 also collected two very similar headdresses near Umuahia (illustrated below); these were said to have been carved by an Ibibio sculptor.

Map from Jones (Gwilym Iwan), "The art of Eastern Nigeria", Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

Map from Jones (Gwilym Iwan), “The art of Eastern Nigeria”, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

A number of ogbom headresses were thus commissioned by Igbo from Ibibio carvers, and others were locally made. According to Herbert Cole it’s unlikely that all known ogbom headdresses were carved by Ibibio (or Eket), so possibly local artists copied the style. There were old trade routes between the two areas via the Kwa Ibo River. Furthermore, the Umuahia area was a marginal area where Igbo, Ibibio, Cross River and Ijo peoples and cultures intermingled, with the Igbo predominating. From the days of the slave trade onward it was also an important distribution center for trade. The principal market was at Bende, where trade routes from the Niger via the Northern Igbo, and the Benue via the Idoma and North-Eastern Igbo converged, and where the slaves could be routed southwards to the coast. At the same time the imports received from the south were traded northwards along the same routes.

Igbo ogbom headdress Jack Harris Umuhia 1939

The characteristic feature of this style lay in the treatment of the lower part of the face, we notice an exaggerated subnasal prognathism. The lips and chin project well beyond the nose and the upper part of the face. In support of this distortion the lips are over-large in size and prominence, particularly in relation with the chin, which recedes beneath them; the cheek- bones and the angle of the jaw disappeared, as did the line of the jaw, which was displaced by a line which ran from the corner of the lips to the outer edge of the brows. The eyes are reduced to slits between straight, insignificant narrow lids hidden beneath the overhanging brows. This exaggeration of the forward projection of the lips can also be found in some Ibibio Anang figures, but not to the same extreme. Lastly, most ogbom carry the local ‘tribal’ marks, namely keloids grouped into small rectangules or ovoids, one on each temple and one between the eyes. In some case they were represented vertically, in others horizontally.

A Ohuhu/Olokoro-Igbo man sitting near the household and holding an ogbom headdress. The ogbom headdress depicts a seated female figure carrying a round platter with a head placed on top. The main figure is carved of wood and she is sitting on a wooden stool. The face of the figure is angular and consists of a rounded head but with sharp angles around the jaw line. The figure has a high forehead with keloid markings in the center and at the sides of the temples; slit eyes, nose, and protruding mouth. The upper torso consists of large breasts, arms extended upward, rounded at the elbow and coiled rings around her wrists. She is holding a round tray with a carved head; the head consists of a rounded stylized face with slit eyes, keloid markings in the center of the forehead and to the sides, mouth and thick neck. She is seated with rings around her ankles. A basketwork tubular frame is at the base of the sculpture. Photo by G.I. Jones, 1930s.

A Ohuhu/Olokoro-Igbo man sitting near the household and holding an ogbom headdress. The ogbom headdress depicts a seated female figure carrying a round platter with a head placed on top. The main figure is carved of wood and she is sitting on a wooden stool. The face of the figure is angular and consists of a rounded head but with sharp angles around the jaw line. The figure has a high forehead with keloid markings in the center and at the sides of the temples; slit eyes, nose, and protruding mouth. The upper torso consists of large breasts, arms extended upward, rounded at the elbow and coiled rings around her wrists. She is holding a round tray with a carved head; the head consists of a rounded stylized face with slit eyes, keloid markings in the center of the forehead and to the sides, mouth and thick neck. She is seated with rings around her ankles. A basketwork tubular frame is at the base of the sculpture. Photo by G.I. Jones, 1930s.

These full-figure headdresses are worn in ogbom dances – these were known among the following Igbo groups: Ibeku, Olokoro, Oboro, Ngwa, and Ozu-Item. While Ibibio style features are present, there is no reason to ascribe the origin of the ogbom cult and art to these neighbors.

Versions of this dance employing carved headdresses seem to have been moribund in the early 1940s. In Olokoro, in 1966, Cole was told that ogbom had last been performed as a masquerade in 1952, but that it continued to be celebrated as a dance (without the headdress). Other sources tell that men still wore the headdresses by the 1930s, but their identity was not concealed (thus they were not supernatural beings), and these carvings had not been made since the nineteenth century.

Ogbom displays honored ala (earth) and called attention to her role in human and agricultural fertility and increase. In some areas it was a harvest celebration. During part of the performance women entered the arena to dance and sing around the ogbom carrier. Connections with female productivity and nurture are emphasized in the carvings themselves, which are overwhelming female, nearly always depicted with large full breasts.

Many of the known ogbom carvings are young females seated on stools holding a disc-like plate above their heads with a human head. These heads would seem to be trophies of war. Since this Igbo area was once known for headhunting, this iconography would appear to refer (at least indirectly) to the role of the heads of slain enemies in bringing power and increase to the receiving community.

Murray describes an elaborate, colorful costume for ogbom carriers. Around the cylindrical base basketwork was woven, and this enabled the carving to be lashed to the dancer’s head. ‘Through a hole in the base of the carving a stick is fitted so as to protrude horizontally at front and back. On the front a conical basket about four feet long is fixed, and at the back an arrangement of cane and raffia shaped like a wheel’. All of that was covered with fine cloths and parrot feathers, and there was a tail-like projection at the dancer’s rear. Murray is equivocal about the wearer’s costume and extent of disguise. At one point he says, ‘The face and body of the dancer are completely covered with a special white-colored native-woven cloth with reaches down to his feet’, and later he indicates that the identity of the carrier was not concealed. In any case, ogbom performers danced in an open area before a shed specially erected for musicians, who used to types of membrane drums plus nine small ‘bowl drums’ of graded size. Murray tells us that ‘women moved about joyfully in compact bodies while parties of men moved forwards and backwards in front of the shed. The dancers wearing the costumes entered singly in a scene of great excitement and danced before the shed and, without touching their cloths, twirled their cloth around their tails merely by their dancing’.

Eket headdress. Height: 58,5 cm. Image courtesy of the Yale University Art Gallery (2006.51.393).

Eket headdress. Height: 58,5 cm. Image courtesy of the Yale University Art Gallery (2006.51.393).

“In Pursuit of Record Prices”: The Myron Kunin Collection at Sotheby’s New York (11 November 2014)

Myron Kunin Sotheby's New York Senufo deble figure world record Primitivism

One week after the sale of Myron Kunin’s collection of African art at Sotheby’s New York, it is time to take a closer look at the results. Note that since the estimates do not reflect commissions, all below prices are without the buyer’s premium (unless indicated otherwise). The 157 African art lots in total brought in a little less than $ 35 million – described as ‘historic’ by the auction house, but was it ?

The presale total estimates were $ 18,8 million and $ 29,1 million – the sale thus brought in more than $ 5 million above the high estimate that Sotheby’s had set before the sale. Of the 157 African art objects in the collection,  38 (or 24 %) remained unsold – however, sales continued after the auction. Most of the lots that were passed, did so not surprisingly – most often when the estimate and quality level did not correspond.

Of the 119 lots that were sold, 45 (or 28,5 %) did so under the low estimate, 31 within the estimate and 43 (or 27,5 %) above the high estimate – it is of course this last category that made the auction. The sale itself took a very slow start, the first four lots all coming from the Dogon. To many’s surprise the reserve prizes each time were well below the low estimate, for example the opening bid for the Dogon granary shutter (lot 4) was $ 15K (est. $40-60K) and it sold for only $ 24K. A first real test was the Djennenke figure, which tripled its low estimate and sold for $ 1,3 million to a telephone bidder. The next few lots were less exciting, but the tone of the auction was set: the lows would be low and the highs high. A much coveted Dan figure (which I’ll discuss in a future post) sold for $ 290K, while a supposedly early 18th century Dogon figure (lot 6) sold for only $ 28K.

A next important lot was a seated Baule figure (est. $ 300-500K) which was hammered down for $ 700K. Impressive also was the $ 580K a Guro mask (lot 41) made (est. $200-300K). But the real highlight of the sale was of course the cover lot, Kunin’s famed Senufo figure (est. $ 6-9 million); the bidding started at $ 4,9 million and the action was mainly between the different telephone lines, coming to a stop after a few minutes at the impressive sum of $ 10,6 million – as much as an average Sotheby’s sale. Mission accomplished for Sotheby’s. They clearly had worked hard on the star lot of the sale – as many of the top objects, it had traveled to Paris and Doha before coming back to NY. This piece alone helped nudge the sale to a record total.

I had much higher expectations for the Yoruba shango staff, which sold only $ 10K above its low estimate at $ 260K. A lot of money for such an object of course, but it was hard to dislike this piece, even if you were not a fan of Yoruba. An incredible object was the Wum mask from Cameroon selling five times its low estimate at $ 200K. A jaw-dropping result was obtained by the Brummer Fang-Betsi head, estimated $ 600-900K, it sold for $ 3,1 million. One of the highlights of Yaëlle Biro’s exhibition African Art, New York, and the Avant-Garde, last year at the Metropolitan, Kunin had bought this historic head at Sotheby’s New York in 2002 for $450K – in twelve years the price thus six folded. The following Fang-Ngumba figure (lot 83) also did very well and doubled its low estimate when selling for $ 650K. As with many of the pieces in this sale, the estimates were often very high (reflecting the price level Kunin was buying at), for example with the Vuvi mask, estimated at $ 200-300K (lot 90), which sold for $ 320K – abstracting the fact that it’s only just above the high estimate, a very impressive result.

After Gabon, it was finally time for the Congolese objects. The big Kongo nail figure (lot 100) doubled its low estimate and sold for $ 650K, a very reasonable price for such a big and important figure. Rubinstein’s Teke figure sold for almost five times its estimate at $ 470K to a bidder in the room. Picasso’s Luba stool sold for more than double its low estimate at $ 675K, while the sticky Luba neckrest (lot 125) made $ 380K (three times its low estimate) – solid results for classic examples of royal Luba art. The Luluwa figure sold for a very reasonable $ 280K and the Kanyok couple made an unbelievable $ 320K. After a long battle, the janus Songye figure (lot 141), was sold for $ 2,15 million and doubled it’s estimate – it was the last important Songye that  had left the Alan Stone collection before he died and his estate was sold by Sotheby’s. Two other Songye figures (lot 143 & lot 146) failed to sell (probably due to their high estimates or over saturated market for this type of object). While the janus Songye stool performed as expected and sold for $ 420K. Lot 147, the Songye-Luba kifwebe mask, sold for an amazing $ 500K.

Some personal favorites I did not yet mention: the 19th Century Dan mask (lot 19) in the Flanplo style; the Igbo headdress (lot 57), incorrectly listed as Eket (discussed here) that made $ 80K (estimated much too low at $15-25K) and an old Igbo mask in a known style sold for $ 16K (a steal seen its quality). I loved the Vili figure (lot 96) which sold to a French dealer for € 160K (est. $ 60-90K), one of the best in its kind and certainly 19th century. A Suku figure (or Tsaan ?) sold for $ 75K (est. $ 25-35K) was a superb piece of sculpture with a great patina – very rare too. I adored the small a-typical Luba figure (selling for $ 15K), which will go to the same collection as the Luba-Zimba stool (lot 133), that was somehow similar in spirit (perhaps due the beaded eyes and stylization).

Even in an important sale like this there was the possibility to buy at very competitive prices for the attentive connoisseur, for example: an ancient Bwa mask was sold for only $ 7,5K and a Mende mask was bought for $ 28K (originally being sold for $37K in 2008). After the sale, most professional regretted not having bought the rare Bete figure for a mere $ 120K, under its low estimate and certainly worth much more. The $ 3,800 for the Wurkun figure (lot 65) was a very good price for the collector with a limited budget, while an excellent Yoruba epa mask (est. $ 10-15K) failed to attract a single bid with the reserve price being $ 4,8K – a steal for such a big and rare mask. All Yoruba didn’t do very well – and three other lot (73, 76 and 77) also failed to generate any interest notwithstanding the low reserves (respectively $ 15K, $ 9K and $ 15K). Lastly a Punu mask sold for $ 28K (est. $ 40-60K) and a small Lumbo figure sold for half its low estimate at $ 3K. Surprisingly a small bronze Baule turtle was able to make $23K, against an estimate of $ 2-3K which left the room a bit puzzled. Lot 47, a Senufo figure, was a fantastic piece of sculpture and thus not really surprisingly generated a lot of interest estimated at only $ 25-35K and was sold in the room for $ 130K.

Three important lots so far remained undiscussed, as I want to use them to illustrate what in my eyes was the lesson of this sale:

  •  the Yombe maternity figure doubled its low estimate selling for $ 3 million. In 2011 this lot was sold for $ 1,8 million (including premium);
  •  the kneeling Kongo figure (lot 99), estimated $ 150-250K, sold for $ 420K. In 2008 this small (11,5 cm high) gem was estimated $ 30-50K and sold for $ 289K (including premium);
  • the Ngbaka figure (lot 119) sold for $ 3,5 million (tripling the estimate of $ 1,2-1,8 million) and was acquired by Kunin in 2009 from the Chaim Gross estate for $ 1,25 million (including premium).

These three objects thus all were acquired fairly recently, and while some conjectured that it was much too soon to have them back on the market, especially since all three were sold for record prices, each of them pulverized their previous result without even a struggle. This clearly shows the strength of the market at the top level where the sky remains the limit. Another factor however may be at hand: an important buyer at a sale like this would have been Kunin himself; with his death Sotheby’s lost one of their top buyers. Additionally, just before the sale another top client suddenly died (info) – the absence of these two major players might have caused the re-entry of several high-end collectors who had left the market after persistently being overbid in the past.

Conclusion: starting publicly during Parcours des Mondes, for months before the sale (short videos included), experts at Sotheby’s had been marketing the Kunin sale (more in specific a small group of masterpieces) as an event filled with once-in-a-lifetime pieces of an outstanding quality. It worked. Thanks to the numerous record prices the sale totaled above its high estimate and many records were broken. Sotheby’s hasn’t released any information on the buyers yet, but as far as I heard more than 50 % of the objects were bought by US collectors. Anyhow, since art appreciation these days generally is connected with its monetary value (“only records make the news”), this sale is of course excellent news for the position of African arts and we can only applaud Sotheby’s for enabling this.

 

Early photography from the Solomon Islands (1870s-1920s)

Portrait of a chief wearing a large kapkap on the forehead (ca. 1920). Image courtesy of Galerie Meyer.

Portrait of a chief wearing a large kapkap on the forehead (ca. 1920). Image courtesy of Galerie Meyer.

Anthony Meyer (from the Parisian Galerie Meyer) recently presented a very interesting catalogue documenting a large group of amazing field-photos made in the Solomon Islands between 1870 and 1920. It’s written by Allison Huetz and available for free here.

"Skull ceremony on beach of Vella Lavella after raid on Savo" (1921). Image courtesy of Galerie Meyer.

“Skull ceremony on beach of Vella Lavella after raid on Savo” (1921). Image courtesy of Galerie Meyer.

Two Fang objects under the CT-scan

Fang spoon. Height: 19 cm. Image courtesy of Sotheby's.

Fang spoon. Height: 19 cm. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Scantix‘s Marc Ghysels has just made two new CT-scans available to the public: one of Myron Kunin’s Fang head, viewable here and the other from the last lot in the upcoming Sotheby’s sale: the magnificent Fang spoon illustrated above. Thanks to this scan one gets a much better view on how the ‘hidden’ janus (!) figure behind the delicate grating looks like. Quite a tour de force by the artist.

Image courtesy of Scantix.

Image courtesy of Scantix.

Sleeper of the month: an ivory Lega mask (D.R. Congo)

ivory lega mask sleeper bruno claessens blog

The above Lega mask – 15,3 cm high – was sold at auction in The Netherlands earlier this month. The grandfather of the Belgian owner had collected it between 1906 and 1909 while working as a cartographer in the then Congo Freestate. With an estimate of only € 15,000-20,000 this little mask obviously attracted a lot of attention. It is a very rare opportunity to find a previously unknown ivory Lega mask of this quality, so I was convinced it wouldn’t stay unnoticed. Well, this little treasure didn’t sleep and in the end sold for € 300,000 (without costs) – probably the same result if it would have been sold at one of the bigger auction houses. After having spent fifteen minutes with it, I can say it’s totally worth it.

PS the title of ‘Sleeper’ in this case is thus totally incorrect 🙂

 

Back at the office

Apologies for the radio silence on the blog these last weeks, I was working hard on the Kunin sale – on which more later – in the meantime the catalogues for the December sales in Paris of both Sotheby’s (here – Alexis Bonew collection & here – various owners) and Christie’s (here – private collection & here – various owners) are already available online.