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Secret Society Mask

Ambrym Island


Circa 1900

Provenance: Eugène Dodeigne, Roubaix ; By descent to the family.

Exhibition: "Arts primitifs dans les ateliers d'artistes", Musée de l'Homme, Paris, Avril-Octobre 1967.

Publication: "Arts primitifs dans les ateliers d'artistes", Société des Amis du Musée de l'Homme, 1967, N°127.1967

This extremely rare and powerful mask originates from Vanuatu's small volcanic island of Ambrym. According to Dr Felix Speiser ("Ethnographische Materialien aus den Neuen-Hebriden", 1923) , this type of mask was used exclusively within secret societies' context.

Made of light wood, the mask is covered with natural black pigments and some faint remains of green, red and white pigments still appear. The eyes are made with shells and the hair with coconut fibers. At the back of the mask there is an old label (from Dodeigne himself or made at time of loan to Musée de l'homme)

For rare comparable works see the examples reproduced here from Museum der Kulturen Basel (image with yellow background, collected by Speiser before 1913), Quai Branly Museum (All collected before 1934 by Edgar Aubert de la Rüe - images with black background) and the one at the Met Museum (1979.206.1586 - image with grey background)

The present mask was owned by french sculptor Eugène Dodeigne and has been exposed in 1967 in the famous exhibition "Arts primitifs dans les ateliers d'artistes" at the Musée de l'homme in Paris (see catalogue entry from Quai Branly Museum n° PP0225531) and reproduced in the exhibition catalogue.

A museum quality piece, extemely powerful in person.

H: 29 cm (11 1/2 inches) (without fibers)

Price: enquiry

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