View full screen - View 1 of Lot 40. Bamana Kòmò Helmet Mask, Mali.
40

Bamana Kòmò Helmet Mask, Mali

Estimate:

20,000 - 30,000 USD

Property from a Private Collection, New York

Bamana Kòmò Helmet Mask, Mali

Bamana Kòmò Helmet Mask, Mali

Estimate:

20,000 - 30,000 USD

Property from a Private Collection, New York

Bamana Kòmò Helmet Mask, Mali


Length: 25 1/2 in (64.8 cm)

Very good condition overall for an object of this age and rare type and medium. Ritual attachments to wood mask are loose in places, encrusted, and somewhat fragile but all largely intact, except for one apparently missing horn in the center. One side of the mask is cracked with a native repair made using metal staples, visible on the reverse of the mask. Losses to the edges, including one larger worn section to one side. Other scattered marks, nicks, scratches, abrasions, and small losses. The underside drilled for attachment to modern stand.


The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot provided by Sotheby's. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colours and shades which are different to the lot's actual colour and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation because Sotheby's is not a professional conservator or restorer but rather the condition report is a statement of opinion genuinely held by Sotheby's. For that reason, Sotheby's condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot.

Alain Dufour, Paris
Private Collection, New York, acquired from the above
Jean-Pierre Colleyn, ed., Bamana: The Art of Existence in Mali, New York, 2001, p. 181, cat. no. 165
Museum for African Art, New York, Bamana: The Art of Existence in Mali, September 13, 2001 - May 19, 2002
Much like the anthropomorphic power figures of the Congo, the corpus of helmet masks called Kòmòkun was meant to ritually arouse fear and fascination. Born of an accumulation of images invoking the surrounding forces, its aesthetics are out of the realm of our classification. These masks, which were worn during ceremonies of the Kòmò power association, were only meant to be viewed by initiates, and are amongst the "most feared objects in the Bamana culture" (Patrick McNaughton, "The Power Associations Kòmò" in Jean-Pierre Colleyn, ed., Bamana: The Art of Existence in Mali, New York, 2001, p. 176). This example is exceptionally powerful in its reduction of form to abstraction, with animistic qualities suggested by the multiple attachments of horns. For further discussion and illustration of Kòmò warakun helmet masks, including the present lot, see Patrick McNaughton in Jean-Pierre Colleyn, ed., ibid., pp. 174-183.

Known mostly through the writings dedicated to the Bamana initiation society of the Kòmò, this powerful association "holds many secrets, practices and esoteric knowledge about the relationship between Man and the world. [It] acts as a police force to fight crime, but also as a judicial body to resolve cases facing the community. [It] also offers initiates protection against disease, misfortune, the actions of malicious spirits and those of antisocial sorcerers" (ibid., p. 175). As Susan Elizabeth Gagliardi superbly demonstrated in Senufo Unbound: Dynamics of Art and Identity in West Africa, the catalogue accompanying the 2015-2016 exhibition Senufo: Art and Identity in West Africa, this institution transcended the borders created by colonial partition and established itself both in Bamana (Mali) societies and in those traditionally referred to as Poro in Senufo country (Côte d'Ivoire).    

The mask presented here is a wonderful illustration of McNaughton’s description of "the exquisitely horrific headdress [...] [which] unites animal motifs and organic materials into a spectacular creature that includes bird, hyena, crocodile, antelope, and more  [Their strength] is subsequently nourished with regular programs of sacrifice (sònni), the residues of which grow across the surface of the headdresses, making them progressively more awesome to behold and more potent to engage." (Patrick McNaughton, in Jean-Pierre Colleyn, ed., ibid., p. 175, p. 178)