Reportedly brought to Belgium between 1915 and 1940
Patrick Dierickx, Brussels, acquired before 1981
Bryce Holcombe, New York
Pace Primitive and Ancient Art, New York
Robert Rubin, New York, acquired from the above on April 21, 1984
Roy Sieber and Frank Herreman, Hair in African Art and Culture, New York, 2000, p. 140, cat. 136
As the dominant regional power in Angola, the Chokwe empire considerably influenced the culture of its neighbours. One of the mask types adopted by the Luena was pwo which represented a mythical female ancestor and an ideal of female beauty. The Rubin mask is distinguished by refined and tender features, giving the mask a naturalistic and almost life-like expression. For a related mask previously in the collection of Henrique Galvão see Sotheby's Paris, December 5, 2007, lot 82.
Marie-Louise Bastin, the noted scholar on Angolan art, examined the Rubin mask while it was still owned by Patrick Dierickx. In a letter of expertise of February 20, 1981 Bastin notes: "This mask with its especially imposing band is of the Pwevo [pwo] type of the Lwena [Luena] who live in the upper Zambeze [Zambezi] region in Angola, Zaire and Zambia. The sculpted band is characteristic of one of the two types of female masks made by these people. The opening at the rear of the mask was probably covered by a fringe of fibers or strips of leather attached to the holes pierced around the edge of the mask and called Cisukusuku (Bastin, 1961, Art Decoratif Tshokwe, pl. 262). The features of the face, stylised in accordance with the morphological syntax of this African region, are expressive, at the same time dramatic and carnal. [...]
"The fact that the face is light [in color] corresponds to the taste of the Lwena who have a preference for people with honey-colored skin. [... This mask] is distinguished by the artistic audacity of the sculptor as evidenced by the carving of the coiffure and the expressiveness of the physiognomy."
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