Watam or Kopar, Lower Sepik River, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea
Height: 20 ½ in (52.1 cm)
Harry A. Franklin, Beverly Hills, acquired by the 1960s
George R. Ellis, Oceanic Art: A Celebration of Form, San Diego, 2009, p. 63, cat. no. 39
San Diego Museum of Art, Oceanic Art: A Celebration of Form, January 31, 2009 - January 3, 2010
See Reche, Der Kaiserin-Augusta-Fluss, Hamburg, 1913, p. 406, fig. 424 for a very closely related mask collected during the Hamburger Südsee-Expedition of 1908–1910, which Reche attributes to Kopar. The Franklin mask was acquired with an attribution to the neighbouring village of Watam, but the source of this information is lost. However, we may note that another almost identical mask, in the collection of the Ethnologisches Museum, Berlin (inv. no. VI 21 427) was collected in Watam in 1900 by a member of the Neuguinea-Kompagnie (see Kelm, Kunst vom Sepik, Vol. III, Berlin, 1968, n.p., cat. no. 154).
All of these masks share several features, including the raised "bars" on their cheeks and foreheads, and the highly distinctive tip of the nose, which Reche describes as "a long, thin appendage, the end of which forms a rolled-up spiral (in imitation of the tail of a tree bear?)" (Reche, ibid., p. 407). Kelm draws attention to the similarities between the Watam mask in Berlin and a Singarin mask in Berlin (inv. no. VI 30 469; Kelm, ibid., cat. no. 150), which bears a close resemblance to lot 21 in the present catalogue.