Illustration principale
Mask, Sawos people, Middle Sepik
Sawos, Middle Sepik, Papua New Guinea, 19th century

Light wood (Alstonia), natural pigments
Height : 32,5 cm

Provenance ; Serge Brignoni, Berne
Loed Van Bussel, New York
Water Randel, New York
John A. Friede, Rye
Light wood of rounded shape carved in high relief, decorated with feathers and painted invariably with ochre, white and black pigments.
This rare type of dance mask was worn by the Iatmul and the Sawos as a head ornament, tied by means of rattan sha to a comb to x the ornament to the hair. During ceremonial dances, they were whirled rapidly in the air to enhance dramatically the choregraphy.
e present mask followed the same trajectory, through prestigious Oceanic art collectors, as a very similar mask possibly carved by the same hand, which sold at Sotheby’s Paris on December 5th 2007. e latter, somehow more spectacular with fresh pigments and larger size was probably made as a replacement for the present mask, which clearly appears to be older and of better carving.

For a comparable mask, see Kunst vom Sepik volume I, n° 73; and the Jolika collection n° 229 for a smaller dance mask (see below).