African Art: a prestigious Swiss collection

Milan, Wednesday 14 October 2020


Bambara, Segou region (Republic of Mali)

Light natural patina wood
H 24 cm
Puppet head.
Head of a female figure with a handle. The expressiveness of the sculpture is given by the mouth, open. The face was carved based on criteria that we call the “cubist” style and is divided into two parts by a big nose. The crest with long lateral locks reflects a hair trend that dates back to the nineteenth century.


€ 8.000 - 10.000

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- George F. Keller antique collection (Bern) Keller’s inventory (G.F.K. …- number illegible);*
- Former Paolo Morigi collection (Lugano) (Morigi inv. label n° 339)- Former private collection (Lugano)

(*) It was Keller himself who wrote the inventory number of the works of his collection on the wood using white ink. His initials, G.F.K., followed by an increasing number assigned to the work, can be read. Over time, and as the works were passed from person to person, in some cases Keller’s initials, G.F.K., can still be seen, but the numbers can be barely read or have completely disappeared. Here, we list the number that can still be read today on the profile for each work.


- Berna 1980, Musée des Beaux Arts;
- Lugano 2002, Palazzo Riva, Banca Svizzera Italiana (BSI);


Reproduced in:
- MORIGI PAOLO “Raccolta di un amatore d’arte primitiva” Magliaso, Lugano & Kunstmuseum Berna, Svizzera 1980, tav. 24, pag. 39;
- VENTURI LUCA M. “Anime antiche, arte negra, da una raccolta di sculture dell’Africa occidentale” Banca BSI, Lugano 2002, tav. 1;

- AUTORI VARI “Bamana: The art of existence in Mali” Museum Rietberg Zurich Editor, Calleyn J. P. 2001, pag. 68, cat. 48 & pag. 89, cat. 63;
- COLLEYN JEAN-PAUL “Visions d’Afrique: Bamana” Milano 2009, tav. 10 e tav. 59;
- GIANINAZZI BARBARA & MAIULLARI PAOLO “Sogo - Maschere e marionette Bamana, Collezione Claude e Marthe Everlé, Lugano, Museo delle Culture; ottobre 2012 - marzo 2013” Mazzotta Editore;
- GOLDWATER ROBERT “Bambara sculpture from the Western Sudan” New York 1963, ill. 43 e 44;

The indigenous name of these puppets called Merekun is the combination of the words Mere, which was the name of a legendary female figure, and Kun, “head”. These sculptures, better known in the Western world as Bambara puppets, are allegorical figures. They had clothes on to cover their movable body and arms and were used during the festivals occasionally held in the villages of the community. The authors who today choose the name Bamana use the term of the ancient Islamic language.


African Art

Via Paolo Sarpi, 6 - milano
Phone: 02 3363801