Comte Simon du Chastel, Brussels, by 1976
Louis de Strycker, Brussels
Pace Primitive and Ancient Art, New York
Robert and Adriana Mnuchin, New York
Michael Oliver, New York
Robert Rubin, New York, acquired from the above on July 14, 1983
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Perspectives: Angles on African Art, February 21 - April 26, 1987; additional venues:
The Center for African Art, New York, September 18, 1987 - January 3, 1988
The Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, Alabama, January 31 - March 27, 1988
The Center for African Art, New York, Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art & Thought, September 20, 1989 - January 7, 1990; additional venues:
The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, February 10 - April 1, 1990
The National Museum of African Art, Washington D.C., May 8 - August 26, 1990
The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, September 26 - December 9, 1990
The New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, January 11 - March 24, 1991
The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, April 23 - June 16, 1991
Museum for African Art, New York, Secrecy: African Art that Conceals and Reveals, February 13 - August 22, 1993; additional venues:
The Bermuda National Gallery, Hamilton, October - December, 1993
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, February - April, 1994
Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, May - September, 1994
The Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, January - March, 1995
The Museum for African Art, New York, Exhibition-ism: Museums and African Art, October 14, 1994 - March 5, 1995
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Master Hand: Individuality and Creativity among Yoruba Sculptors, September 11, 1997 - March 1, 1998
Museum for African Art/UBS Gallery, New York, Reflections: African Art Is..., July 1 - September 10, 2004
The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, The Fred and Rita Richman Galleries, November 2005 - July 2006
Simon Du Chastel, Arts d'Afrique noire, Brussels, 1976, p. 22
William Buller Fagg, John Pemberton, and Bryce Holcombe, Yoruba Aculpture of West Africa, New York, 1982, pp. 150-151, pl. 49
Susan M. Vogel, Perspectives: Angles on African Art, New York, 1987, p. 133
Henry John Drewal and John Pemberton, Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought, New York, 1989, p. 216, no. 251
Mary H. Nooter, "Secrecy: African art that conceals and reveals", in African Arts, 1993: vol. XXVI, no. 1, p. 67
Mary H. Nooter, Secrecy: African art that conceals and reveals, New York, 1993, p. 108, no. 44
Carol Thompson, African Art Portfolio: An Illustrated Introduction, Masterpieces from the Eleventh to the Twentieth Centuries, New York, 1993, no. 13 and front cover
Mary Nooter Roberts, Susan M. Vogel, and Chris Müller, Exhibition-ism: Museums and African Art, New York, 1994, p. 30, fig. 5
This magnificent mask is the work of an unknown master active in the 19th and early 20th century in the Anago region in the Republic of Benin, in southwestern Yoruba territory. Four other masks by the same hand are known (three of them published in Pemberton and Fagg 1982: pls. 2, 5 and 29; the fourth, previously in the Collection of Frieda and Milton Rosenthal, was sold at Sotheby's New York, November 14, 2008, lot 32).
The hand of this artist is distinguished by the angular outline of the ears, a subtly rendered nose with wide nostrils, multiple rows of small triangles carved in relief across the forehead and down the cheeks. Furthermore, the eyes are depicted with pierced irises framed by almond shaped eyelids.
A special feature of the Rubin Gelede Mask is its blackened surface heightened with blue and red pigments. Pemberton and Fagg (1982: 150) discuss this feature of the Rubin Mask at length: "The painting of Gelede masks is not only of aesthetic importance; it has symbolic significance as well, especially with regard to the gods. The Yoruba pantheon may be divided into two groups of orisha: the hot or dark gods, and those gods whose powers are associated with coolness and whiteness. The distinction is not a rigid one, for each group shares in some measure the characteristics of the other. The orisha of whiteness possess life-giving powers. Among the Anago, Obatala, or Odudua [Yoruba subgroups it] forms the human body. [...] Shango and his wife Oya, as well as Ogun and Shopanna, are the dark, hot tempered deities, whose powers are present where blood is shed in war or in the hunt, and where death is known in the dread desease of smallpox. The blackened face and the red and black coloring of the hair [of the Rubin Mask] suggest that this Gelede mask was danced for one of the fiery orisha, perhaps Shango, or more likely, his wife Oya."
Another remarkable feature of the Rubin Gelede Mask is its aesthetic affinity to bronze castings from the Benin Kingdom. David Rockefeller (born 1915), together with his brother Nelson one of the early collectors of African art in the United States, comments on this very aspect in his contribution to the catalogue of the exhibition Perspectives: Angles on African Art at New York's Museum for African Art (Rockefeller in Center for African Art 1987: 132): "I guess that one reason I chose this is that I've always liked Benin bronzes very much, and this [Gelede Mask] reminded me quite a bit of those - much more than any of the others. The design and composition of the headdress evokes that memory; I wouldn't have been surprised had that been in bronze. The facial structure, as well, is quite similar to some of the Benin heads I've seen. I think it's quite strong. I found it appealing. When I first looked at the photograph [of this mask], before I read the description, I wondered if it was bronze."
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