This mask represents a spirit, in this case called hombo, which plays a role in the history of the lineage among the Bwa clans. A known type of mask among the Bwa, it is rare and the offered Krugier mask is of exceptional quality for its strength of expression, proportions and layered, painterly surface.
Above all, the most distinguishing feature of this mask is the strong vertical axis created by the salient circular crest. As William Rubin has noted, it is this type of African mask in which the face is reconfigured and reimagined or even sliced to create a new type of facial plane which inspired the artists of the early 20th century such as Paul Klee and Pablo Picasso. The confusion of noses, mouths and eyes reduced to the most basic suggestion of a face is a leitmotif seen in Picasso's works of the 1920s and 30s as characterized by the head depicted in his painting L'Atelier, 1927-1928 (Zervos, vol. 7, no. 142; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; fig. 1) (W. Rubin, ed., "Primitivism" and 20th Century Art, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1984, vol. I, p. 60).
The Krugier hombo mask is a type created for the highly important family of Bwa blacksmiths. Smiths are revered for their divine ability to transform the raw, hard iron into tools which benefit the people for the hunting of animals and cultivation of the land. The face represents a catfish and the prominent crest motif symbolizes simultaneously a rooster, an axe and, in the case with an upturned edge, a chameleon. Each being important and multi-valent symbols among the Bwa smiths (C. Roy, op. cit.). For a related mask from the collection of Thomas Wheelock, see C. Roy and T. Wheelock, Land of the Flying Masks, Berlin, 2007, p. 409, no. 137.
(fig. 1) Pablo Picasso, L'Atelier, 1927-1928. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.