Exhibitions/ Art Object

Mblo Twin Mask (Nda)

19th–20th century
Côte d'Ivoire, Bandama River region
Baule peoples
Wood, metal, patina stain
H. 13 3/16 x W. 9 x D. 7 in. (33.6 x 22.9 x 17.8 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
Not on view
In Baule communities, Mblo performances feature masked dancers who impersonate familiar subjects that range from animals to human caricatures. Mblo dances culminate in a performance that pays tribute to the community's most admired member. The individual thus honored is referenced by a mask that is conceived as his or her artistic "double" or "namesake." The highly stylized compositions of double-faced twin masks are the abstract projection of ideas relating to complementary opposites. The right red side of this mask has greater dominance given its higher placement and taller coiffure. That subtle formal asymmetry imbues the composition with dynamism. This mask, in comparison to another Baule mask on view in the exhibition, reveals the contrasting aesthetic priorities established by d'Harnoncourt and Goldwater. While d'Harnoncourt privileged highly polished, dark, stylized faces that conformed to the nascent European canon of Baule art, Goldwater was less wedded to these and open to a variety of forms. This superb Baule twin mask, which he acquired for the MPA from the 1965 auction of Parisian dealer Paul Guillaume, may be less "classic" than widely collected examples in early collections, but it is especially admired for its dynamic originality.
Paul Guillaume, Paris, until (d.)1934; Juliette (Domenica) Lacaze Guillaume, until 1965; [Hôtel Drouot Rive Gauche, Paris, November 9, 1965]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1965, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, 1965–1978

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 332.

Newton, Douglas. Masterpieces of Primitive Art: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978, p. 100.

Baeke, Viviane. Legacy of Collecting: African and Oceanic Art from the Barbier Mueller Museum in Geneva. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009, 15, 1.

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