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Docteur Bouffard, Lourdes, rapporté par son grand-père de Côte d'Ivoire vers 1900.
Christian Duponcheel, Pietrebais.
John Hewett, Londres
Alexander Martin, Londres
Bleakley, R., African Masks, Londres, 1978, fig.15
African Art Then and Now, 1975
African Sculpture from Private Collections in London, 1979, fig.50
Teuten, T., The Collector's Guide to Masks, Londres, 1995, p.21
Post Lot Text
RARE AND IMPORTANT GURO MASK, GU
This is one of the most superb Guro masks which has survived. Bill Fagg, who was not normally given to superlatives, told Alan Mann that it was magnificent, no doubt coming from the earliest generation of Guro masks and one of the highest documents on the sculptural genius of the tribe. In his opinion it is one of the most powerful of all Guro masks, the dominant effect incalculably heightened by the massive wooden horn. The sale offers buyers an unique opportunity to acquire such an early carving.
Few masks from the early period survive in central Cote d'Ivoire where the Guro live. They are an autonomous people and fiercely independent, so resisted the advances of the French forces during colonisation in the fist decade of the twentieth century when many of their villages were razed to the ground. Christian Duponcheel was given to understand that Dr. Bouffard's grandfather acquired the masks before 1900, confirmed by Loed van Bussel who visited his old father in Lourdes in the 1960s.
The Guro have a massive work dedicated to them - Eberhard Fischer's Guro Masks, Performances and Master Carvers in Ivory Coast (Zurich, 2008) They also have a chapter on them written by Ariane Deluz in Jean Paul Barbier's Art of the Côte d'Ivoire from the Collections of the Barbier-Mueller Museum (Geneva, 1993, 2 vols, pp.234-245) and an article by Anne-Marie Bouttiaux in the Museum's Journal Arts & Cultures (Geneva, 2005, pp134-151). They all agree that Gu represents a beautiful young woman for the cult who dances with Zamble and Zauli among the Northern Guro. Her dance is accompanied by flutes and if in the past it might have been slow Bouttiaux describes the performance now as unpredictable, with stamping erratic movements. The elders entreat the dancer to stop as they cluster around him singing. "Everything about this performance brings to mind a bush spirit that is difficult to tame but nonetheless benevolent and helpful to men" (p.148). She adds that Gu is fast disappearing from the Guro landscape and in time will just be represented by masks in museums.
When François Fasel was asked the reason for the great variety of gu masks the Guro explained that there are many forms of womanly beauty which must be reflected in the masks (Barbier, p.94). The tall horn on the head would indicate that her family would be wealthy enough to support her during the time between puberty and marriage without her having to work - i.e. carry anything on her head.