African Art: a prestigious Swiss collection

Milan, Wednesday 14 October 2020


Luba (Democratic Republic of Congo)

Light polychrome wood
H 34 cm

Kifwebe dance mask.
South-eastern region of the Congo marked by the courses of the rivers Lualaba and Lomami.
The spherical shape of this model belongs to one of the productions that the Luba people used for the Kifwebe masks. They are not too common, but are characterised by the circular shape of the face. In these models, the nose has an almost-realistic shape. Here, the arcs drawn by the eye sockets spread with parallel incisions across the whole surface of the mask, decorated with alternating colours of white, brown and black. This accentuates the expressive power of the mask, which, with its different types, was created by sculptors in shapes and models that were passed down from generation to generation with decisively abstract styles.


€ 10.000 - 12.000

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- Netterson antique collection (Antwerp) (1929);*
- Léopold Haefliger antique collection (Swiss painter from Lucerne 1929 - 1989);
- George F. Keller antique collection (New York / Davos) (Inv. G.F.K. 303);
- 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. 302, page 343;
- VENTURI LUCA M. “Anime antiche, arte negra, da una raccolta di sculture dell’Africa occidentale” BSI Bank, Lugano 2002, fig. 84;

- FELIX MARK LEO “100 Peoples of Zaire and their sculpture: Luba pages. 78 - 79” Brussels 1987;
- VARIOUS AUTHORS “Faces of the spirits: masks from Zaire basin” Antwerp, 1993, pages. 158-159;
- DELANGE JACQUELINE & LEIRIS MICHEL "Africa nera" Milan 1967, page 337, number 391;
- WALKER ART CENTER "Art of the Congo" Minneapolis 1967, page 51, number 24.6;

The strong secret society, Kifwebe, originally developed with the Songye, but subsequently spread to the Luba people. These masks belonged to the members of the powerful Kifwebe secret society. They are the masks that the native people believed to have a strong supernatural value, as they represented the incarnation of a divine being.Many masks were worn during funerals, during youth initiation rituals or when high-ranking figures would meet to elect the head of the village. Others were hung “in the house of masks” where all objects believed to be sacred were kept.

(*) Morigi’s profile says: Former Netterson collection, Antwerp (1929). From the sources we have found, Netterson was a Belgian trader active in the ‘20s and ‘30s. He even sold works from the Congo to George Keller and Paolo Morigi. One example is the sale of a Yaka-type Janus small statue sold to Keller (G.F.K. 262) exhibited in the Museum of Bern in 1980, published by Morigi in his volume “Raccolta di un amatore” in 1980, page 262, num. 363. This statue was then sold by Sotheby’s on 6th December 2005, lot 107.


African Art

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