THREE AFRICAN AND OCEANIC SCULPTURES FROM THE PRIVATE COLLECTION OF HENRI MATISSE
Henri Matisse, Paris, by 1915
By descent through the family
Paul Guillaume and Guillaume Apollinaire, Sculptures Nègres, Paris, 1917, pl. V
Société des Amis du Musée de l'Homme (ed.), Arts Primitifs dan les Ateliers d'Artistes, Paris, 1967, cat. 114
René Wassing, African Art: Its Background and Traditions, New York, 1968, p. 242, cat. 36
Ezo Bassani, "Una bottega di grandi artisti Bambara, l", Critica d'Arte, Anno XLIII, NS, fasc. 157-9, Gennaio-Giugno 1978, p. 220, ill. 17 (description on p. 218, no. 11)
William Rubin (ed.), Primitivism in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern, New York, 1984, vol. 1, p. 229
Elsy Leuzinger, Kunst der Naturvölker (Propylaeen Kunstgeschichte No. 22), Frankfurt/Berlin/Vienna, 1985, pl. 12
Since the publication of Hans Himmelheber's groundbreaking Negerkünstler (Negro Artists) in 1935, the identification of individual artists and workshops has become an increasingly important focus of African art history. Based on the methodologies established in ancient Greek, Medieval and early Renaissance art history, the identification of an artist's body of work is centered on stylistic and contextual evidence. As the artist's actual name is frequently not known, names of convenience are used instead.
Allen Wardwell was in the forefront of this art historical movement when, in 1966, he examined a group of Bamana figures which he believed to belong to a hitherto unidentified Bamana sub-style (Wardwell 1968). Ezio Bassani refined this theory in 1978, when he identified a group of 57 Bamana sculptures which he believed to originate from a single workshop. This workshop, active at the end of the 19th and early 20th century in the Bani River region, between
Segou and Koutiala (cf. Bassani 1978, part 2: 197-199), was subsequently called the "Masters of Segou."
Based on meticulous stylistic analysis, Bassani went on to identify three individual hands responsible for the creation of 40 sculptures. According to the favorite subjects and characteristics of their creations, he named these artists "The Master of the Slender Figures," "The Master of the Raptor Profile," and the "Master of the Antelopes" (Bassani 1978, part 2: 196).
The Matisse Figure is a magnificent example of the work of the "Master of the Raptor Profile." Only ten sculptures by this artist are known, five of which represent seated female figures. In addition to the Matisse Figure, the others are: one in the British Museum, London (inv. no. "1919.472", Bassani 1978: 221, ill. 18); a second in the Naprstkvo Muzeum, Prague (inv. no. "39.112", Bassani 1978: 221, ill. 19); and a third and a fourth previously in the collection of Henri Kamer, current whereabouts unknown (Bassani 1978: 222-223, ills. 20-22).
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