Lot 165
  • 165

Baga or Nalu Mask (Banda), Guinea

20,000 - 30,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • wood
  • Height: 58 1/2 inches (149 cm)


Emil Storrer, Zurich, by 1960
Rebecca LittleJohn and Paul Z. Rotterdam, New York, acquired from the above in 1987


Hans Himmelheber, Negerkunst und Negerkünstler, Braunschweig, 1960, p. 130, Abb. 113

Catalogue Note

According to Lamp (2004: 74) "Baga and Nalu art, legends, cultural history, and ritual are permeated with the notion of struggle and cooperation between mankind and the natural features of their world.  This balanced tension especially characterizes the costumed spiritual representation called Banda [...] a composite creation, carved from a single piece of wood, incorporating the human head with its eye, nose, and its braided and crested coiffure, a crocodile jaw, antelope horns, chamelion tail, and serpent [...]."

He continues (ibid.): "Before the twentieth century Banda seems to have represented a high and powerful spiritual being and appeared only to privledged society elders (Appia 1943: 158, 160; Bowald 1939: 126, 128; Voix V, 7, 1930: 13).  It reportedly figured in ritual designed to protect the villagers against crocodile attacks, human malevolence, and various impending dangers, especially at the time of male initiation to mark the attainment of adolescence, adulthood, and elder status.  It also appeared on such events as marriage, harvest celebrations, and new planting ritual, and the appearance of the new moon, all auspicious occasions."

In addition to Pablo Picasso's famous Baga D'mba headdress, the influence of which on his art has been well documented (see Rubin 1984: 275 et. seq.), the artist also owned a Baga or Nalu Banda mask, which is visible in many photos of the artist at his Villa La Californie at Cannes (see Stepan 2006: 128, cat. no. 41).  It is unclear when Picasso acquired his Banda mask and therefore difficult to establish which of his works might have fallen under its specific influence. The relationship of Baga art to Picasso's work - both as a direct source and as an artistic affinity across cultures - is well expressed in the colorful and imaginative abstractions of the Banda mask, and therefore it is easy to see how such a sculpture would have appealed to Picasso.  The present example was selected by the pioneering art historian Hans Himmelheber and published in his landmark study Negerkunst und Negerkünstler in 1960.