Collecting Masterpieces
Photo of mumuye-mask-nigeria-rockefeller-metropolitan-museum-met-galerie-golconda

 

Tribal Art
MUMUYE MASK

ROCKEFELLER COLLECTION, EX-METROPOLITAN MUSEUM

 

Object :
Nº 1422
Medium :
Wood
Dimensions :
Height: 132 cm (51.9") – Width: 31.5 cm (12.4") – Thickness: 26 cm (10.2")
Bibliography :
Published in Collecting Masterpieces Part One, by Beryl Cavallini on pg 196 - 197

Mask of sculpted wood with a satiny, dark brown patina. Small, crested head with an oval face, in relief and incised, supported by a long tubular neck. Two ears with distended lobes, each one pierced with a square hole, complete the upper part of the mask. The lower part comprises a hollow conical bust with two long protective side panels extending from it. The front is pierced with a square “vision window”. Traces of red and white pigment. Very good general condition, some cracks from age and traces of wear.

A great lover of Modern Art, Nelson A. Rockefeller (1908-1979) discovered in himself a passion for primitive art during an exhibition at the MOMA of cubist work influenced by African art. Started in the 1930’s, his collection boosted understanding and knowledge of these cultures in the United States To present them to the public, Nelson A. created in 1954 the Museum of Primitive Art in New York. Closed in 1978, the collection was given to the Metropolitan Museum with the intent of creating a department that would be devoted to primitive art. This piece was part of that donation and bears the MET’s red registration number. The Mumuye wood sculptures seem to have been created between 1840 and 1930. For a long time isolated because of their very rugged territory, the Mumuye were fist discovered in the 1950s. These farming people lived in clans in North- Eastern Nigeria, by the Benue River, which irrigated their land. These Sukawa type masks were used to call upon the master of rain, the supreme religious authority, and represent the guardian spirits linked to their rituals. During ceremonies, the dancers exhibited these masks throughout the village, while hidden beneath raffia or fabrics. The ask is of sculpted wood with a satiny, dark brown patina, with a small, crested head with an oval face, supported by a long tubular neck. Two ears with distended lobes, each one pierced with a square hole, complete the upper part of the mask. The lower part comprises a hollow conical bust with two long protective side panels extending from it. The front is pierced with a square “vision window”. Thanks to its provenance this piece belongs to the history of the great collectors.