Gouro Gu mask, Ivory Coast Wood, ancient... - Lot 31 - Binoche et Giquello

Lot 31
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Estimation :
200000 - 250000 EUR
Gouro Gu mask, Ivory Coast Wood, ancient... - Lot 31 - Binoche et Giquello
Gouro Gu mask, Ivory Coast
Wood, ancient pigments
H. 32 cm
Gouro Gu mask, Ivory Coast
H. 12 ½ in
Provenance:
- Probably Roger Bédiat collection
- Henri Kamer
- The Paul Tishman collection
- Michael Oliver
- Pace Gallery, Bryce Holcombe
- Private collection, New York 1976
- Private collection, Paris
Publication:
- African Arts, Vol XIX, No. 1, New York, 1985, advertisement by Michael Oliver
The beautiful Gu, a Gouro muse
This remarkable mask celebrates woman, embodied in the divine Gu, a primordial figure of the Gouro pantheon. A paragon of beauty and eternal seductress of her husband, the mythical hero Zamblé, she used to display her charms for him in highly suggestive dances.
This work has the stamp and distinctive features of an old style in force at the end of the 19th century among this population long established in the central-western part of Côte d'Ivoire. Some of these features are known to us thanks to Félix Fénéon, a great lover of objects from the region, who acquired two masks with a standing figure at the top, whose face had the same characteristics. They were found between 1911 and 1913 by Raoul Soffrey Berthier, a German from Montrigaud, whose duties took him all over the Gouro country, from his base camp in Zuénoula. Masks of the same vein help to situate the arrival of this type of object in Europe during the interwar period when Paul Guillaume lent his to the mythical "African Negro Art" exhibition of 1935 at the Metropolitan Museum in New York and Baron Von den Heydt and Joseph Mueller acquired theirs, now respectively at the Rietberg Museum in Zurich and Barbier-Mueller in Geneva.
If the body embellishments once fashionable among the elegant Gouro women were very often reproduced on sculptures in their image, the profusion of these keloids, arranged all around the face of the masks we are dealing with, is among the rarities they share. The mouth uncovering the teeth and the very tapered nose are others, but the femininity of the beautiful Gu appears nowhere as movingly as on the mask that is the subject of this notice. Her finely hemmed lips erase the aggressiveness of the visible incisors and the long line of the nose joins the arch of the eyebrows to compose a harmonious arabesque. The lowered, half-closed eyes give the face a serenity and softness that are enhanced by the smooth patina of old leather; time and use have tarnished the hard, dense wood, erasing the original polychromy revealed by a few tiny traces of pigments, kaolin white and Guimet ultramarine blue, which was adopted by African artists in the 19th century. The skilfully and artistically braided hairstyle, maintained by a series of combs borrowed from the Akan world, dresses the bulging forehead with a fine and delicate lace embroidered with esoteric geometric figures.
This precious artifice evokes the coquetry of the women of Gouro good society, whose status is confirmed here by the presence of a kind of chignon pointing towards the sky, incompatible with the carrying of a load on top of the head, a chore unworthy of a patrician. The Gouro sculpture frequently merges various species, and the bunch of striated elements making up the said chignon could represent the horns of a young hippotrague, no doubt to recall the omnipresence of Zemblé, a human with an animal touch. The four-sided leather band holding the hair contains verses from the Koran adorned with the virtues of an amulet.
The author of this exceptional mask would not usurp the title of Master that some of his peers, Gouro sculptors as talented as they are anonymous, have been given.
Bertrand Goy
This remarkable mask celebrates the woman, incarnated in the divine Gu, primordial character of the Gouro pantheon. A paragon of beauty, eternal seductress of her husband, the mythical hero Zamblé, she used to display her charms in very suggestive dances for him.
This work has the stamp and the distinctive signs of an old style prevailing at the end of the 19th century among this population long established in the center-west of the Ivory Coast. Some of these features are known to us thanks to Félix Fénéon, a great lover of objects from the region, who acquired two masks with a standing figure at the top, whose face had the same characteristics. They were found between 1911 and 1913 by Raoul Soffrey Berthier, a German from Montrigaud, whose duties took him all over the Gouro country from his base camp in Zuénoula. Masks of the same vein help to situate the arrival of this type of object in Europe during the interwar period when Paul Guillaume lent his to the mythical "African Negro Art" exhibition of 1935 at the Metropolitan Museum in New York and Baron Von den Heydt and Joseph Mueller acquired theirs, now respectively a
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