Dan Passport Mask – Liberia or Côte d'Ivoire

Masks were perhaps the most important art tradition in Dan culture, embodying conduits of communication with the spirit world that guided and influenced the affairs of the physical realm. While masks were largely worn and danced, many cultures in western Africa produced what are now referred to as “passport masks,” miniature replicas or surrogates of a primary mask that could be easily carried in a pouch. A passport mask held the primary mask’s spirit and could be fully employed by its user when traveling outside their immediate community.

This diminutive passport mask represents dean gle, an exemplar of idealized feminine beauty. The hallmarks of the type are skillfully rendered in miniature here, with a characteristic concave face, swelling brow, slit eyes, and full lips. An expression of grace and goodwill imbues the small portrait, which is enriched by a dark patina. The mask’s reverse side bears a small collection label.

 

Early 20th century
Wood
3 ½” h
Provenance: Bruce Frank Primitive Art, New York City; Noble Endicott, New York City
#562
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