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Post Lot Text
This small mask, made of coconut, demonstrates a magnificent use of line. Whereas other small masks from New Guinea, made of wood, allow the carver to approximate expression more fully in three-dimensions, in this Bouchard-Jolika example, the artist is only afforded the flat plane of the coconut shell. One can see the nervous, chattering grooves and the circumferential etched lines around the eyes, which gives it life, together with the very lower tip punctuated by a tiny hole for the mouth, which gives the overall feeling of surprised expression.
Cf. Greub (ed.) (1985, pl.65, p.188) for a related example from the Middle Sepik-area. This maskette, however, unlike the Bouchard-Jolika small mask, is pierced at the rim and the eyes, indicating it was attached to something, probably a mesh bag in keeping with the known function of other small masks from the region. However, as Friede notes (2005, p.98), among the Abelam and Wosera related maskettes were used as drinking cups during initiation ceremonies. This seems the more logical function with the single tiny hole used for suspension when not in use.
This miniature mask was acquired from Emile Bouchard. Well known for his exquisite eye, the Parisian dealer and collector, Jean-Pierre Laprugne, when recalling his days 'on the treasure hunt' in flea market and bazaars, said: 'Oh, there was La Villette, the Parc Citroen for a little while, Richard-Lenoir, too (...) It was in such places that I bumped into folks such as Emile Bouchard, a perfectly charming, picturesque and astounding character' (2003). Friede describes him fondly as well: 'Emile Bouchard...was the last of the old-style European collectors. Despite modest means and a tiny residence, he built a collection of gemlike miniatures that has never been equaled. His irrepressible enthusiasm and hospitality were a joy to experience' (2005, Vol 1, p.19). See Friede (op. cit.) for an extraordinary Chambri figure, also from the Bouchard Collection (cat. n.257).