African Art: a prestigious Swiss collection

Milan, Wednesday 14 October 2020


Dan (Ivory Coast, region of Man on the border with Liberia))

Wood with shiny black coating
H 25 cm

This mask is the perfect representation of the idealised face of one of the clan’s ancestors. It is carved in hardwood and follows the tradition of the classic Dan masks. The features of face are sculpted with a sense of delicacy: the pointy chin, well-proportioned nose and lips, narrow eyes with traces of white pigment, wood surface sanded with sandpaper. The shiny effect of the coating was obtained by soaking the mask in a solution of leaves steeped in water and lampblack. Once dried, the surface of the mask is rubbed until shiny. The aesthetic result is particularly appreciated by collectors.

Sold € 9.840,00

  • Add to favorite lots


- George F. Keller antique collection (Bern) (Inv. G.F.K. 56);
- Former Paolo Morigi collection (Lugano);
- Former private collection (Lugano);


- Bern 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 Bern, Switzerland 1980, fig. 99, page 101;
- VENTURI LUCA M. “Anime antiche, arte negra, da una raccolta di sculture dell’Africa occidentale” BSI Bank, Lugano 2002, fig. 13;

- VERGER-FEVRE Marie-Noel “Etude des masques faciaux de l’Ouest de la Cote-d’Ivoire conserves dans les collections publiques françaises”. 1980 study published in the French magazine “Arts d’Afriques Noire”, Spring 1985, num. 53 (pages 17 - 29) and Summer 1985 num. 54 (pages 19 - 33);

Dan masks are famous for the beauty of the face represented and the dark coating covering them. The shape of the face is a perfect oval with big round eyes, which are usually semi-open as in this mask. These models, which arrived in the Western world in the first years of 1930s, were particularly appreciated by collectors. The different types of Dan masks were best described by two researchers from the Zurich Museum, Eberhard Fischer and Hans Himmelheber, who were able to gather specific information after a long time spent on field. The masks were used for different ceremonies, such as in celebratory dances, young villagers’ initiations, the ceremonies in memory of ancestors, etc.


African Art

Via Paolo Sarpi, 6 - milano
Phone: 02 3363801