Rare Masks: Tribal Art Auction on 2nd November 2015

Porträtmaske der Baule

Elfenbeinküste: Porträtmaske der Baule
Rufpreis € 2.000   Copyright Dorotheum

Tribal art remains a collecting category that offers art lovers all over the world much to discover. Historical objects, masks, and statues, employed for long years in unfamiliar rites and ceremonies by tribal cultures from distant corners of the world that are slowly disappearing, have seen growing demand on the part of private collectors, galleries, and museums.

For several years now, Dorotheum has been successfully presenting these treasures at its auctions. On 2nd November 2015 the upcoming tribal art auction will offer a selection of approximately 200 objects, including a rare Luba monkey mask, a black Punu mask from Gabon, a relief from the ancient kingdom of Benin, Nigeria, or the large sarcophagus of a Toraja prince from Sulawesi, Indonesia – and much more!

Tutelary figures and doubles

Made around 1900, the monkey mask of the Luba (Congo) is a rare piece of museum quality, not least on account of its size. More commonly, small masks of this type were hung at peoples’ houses to serve as protective amulets. The present mask from a Belgian colonial collection is much larger and was used in dances (opening price € 10,000).

The Baule, in the interior of the Ivory Coast, created a special type of mask to portray other members of the village community and to variously praise, criticise or cartoon them. The ‘double’ presented at this auction features four round, bent ‘horns’ intended as decorative elements rather than representing animal horns. The scarification at the base of the nose shows the tribal mark of the Baule. The opening price of this stylistically fascinating masterpiece from the first half of the 20th century has been set at 2,000 Euro.

The rare black type of the Punu mask from Gabon represents negative ‘night’ aspects, and as a so-called Ikwara mask served to ward off evil, and is still used for this purpose. The mask available at Dorotheum originates in the first third of the 20th century and shows the typical Punu scarification to the forehead and corners of the mouth, as well as the tall tower hair style (opening price € 4,000).

Other highlights of the auction include a large and elaborately decorated sarcophagus of a Toraja prince from the island of Sulawesi, opening at 12,000 Euro, as well as a wooden relief board dating to ca. 1900 and depicting a king of Benin (Nigeria) - the so-called ‘Oba’ - flanked by two companions, a high priest and a healer. The king’s legs in the shape of fish serve to associate him with wealth and the water deity of fertility (€ 4,000).

At this tribal art auction, the catalogue for the first time lists the opening price, i.e. the prices at which the objects are initially offered at auction and at which they may be knocked down to potential (and lucky) buyers.


Auction Date

2nd November 2015, 2:00 pm

Public Viewing

28th October 2015


Palais Dorotheum, Vienna 1, Dorotheergasse 17



Specialist: Prof. Erwin Melchardt, Tel. +43-1-515 60-520, erwin.melchardt@dorotheum.at

Press Office: Doris Krumpl, Tel. +43-1-515 60-406, doris.krumpl@dorotheum.at


more informations  about DOROTHEUM


auction dates of  Dorotheum



all  informations are given without guarantee of correctness

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *