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Dogon Bronze Face Mask - PF.3666
Origin: Southeastern Mali/Burkina Faso
Circa: 16 th Century AD to 18 th Century AD
Dimensions: 9.375" (23.8cm) high x 6.5" (16.5cm) wide
Catalogue: V19
Collection: African
Style: Dogon
Medium: Bronze

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In the Dogon society masked celebrations are run by associations who are entrusted with the initiation of young boys. This coming of age includes being instructed in Dogon myths by the use of drawings and paintings. A young boy will learn the place of humans in nature, society and the universe. The men's association, awa, is not only responsible for initiations, but also for organizing the great masked ceremonies of the dama, which is the closing of the mourning period; a celebration which may last for several days. The associations can therefore be seen uniting the important phases of life- passage into adulthood, moral values, and the afterlife- all in one homogeneous framework of understanding.

It is said of Dogon sculpture that it embodies highly religious ideals, values and feelings for the edification of its people. These admirable virtues can be seen with perfect clarity in this very lovely bronze mask. Immediately we feel an endearing presence from his warm and compassionate smile. The skill involved in creating such an object is just as immediate. An artist of consummate ability was needed to mold the difficult medium of bronze into something so perfectly styled and with such delightful ornamentation. The contrast of textures is not only aesthetically pleasing but also serves to give the face character; further highlighted by the gorgeous shades of green, amber and black of the bronze's patina. The woven material of the cap, which is so realistic it seems soft to the touch, is carried on in the nicely groomed goatee. This motif is continued in the cloth around the eyes which is like a stylized mask. Balance is further achieved by the use of circles for the ears, textured nostrils and the spiral design hanging from the center of the cap. How an artist managed to convey wisdom and gentle mirth to the eyes is truly amazing. This is the sort of rare object that touches our emotions, fills us with joy every time we see him- forever beautiful through immortal bronze and an artist's brilliance. - (PF.3666)

 

 

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