The offered lot closely relates to a group of exquisite Yoruba gelede
masks which all seem to have been created in Western Yorubaland, in today's Republic of Benin. Apart from a series of common features including the overall proportions, fullness of the cheeks, rendering of the nose and ears and the slightly raised corners of the mouth, the most distinctive attribute of these masks is their seemingly contemplative gaze. In his discussion of one of the masks from this group which is featured on the cover of the monograph Yoruba Sculpture of West Africa
by William Fagg and John Pemberton III, the latter (in
Fagg and Pemberton 1982: 192) notes: "It is the eyes that engage and hold our attention. They gaze from a composed face, whose features are those of a mature young mother. The lips are gently compressed. The marks of culturally defined beauty appear on brow and cheek, and in the highly stylized coiffure. [...] As one continues to look on the face, the coolness and purity that one first saw, and continues to see becomes chilling. The gaze, intense and constant, begins to claw at the imagination. The viewer finds himself being viewed. One is a-look-looked at, incapable of withdrawing from the gaze. Apprehension rises about the mother, about the power of women."
See also a pair of Ibeji twin figures acquired in 1854 by the British Museum, London (Fagg and Pemberton 1982: 16, fig. 7) and for hairstyle and facial scarification another gelede mask, also in the British Museum, London (ibid.: 18, fig. 11).