Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Face Mask (Gu)

Attributed to Zuenola (possibly)
19th–mid-20th century
Côte d'Ivoire, central Côte d'Ivoire
Guro peoples
Wood, pigment, cord
H. 17 3/8 x W. 7 1/2 x D. 6 1/2 in. (44.1 x 19.1 x 16.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Gertrud A. Mellon, in memory of Dr. Robert Goldwater, 1977
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 352
In Guro culture, distinctions are made between masquerades that are the focus of cults and those that are more secular in nature. A sequence of three sacred masks centers around Zamble, a mythical male being whose form fuses antelope and leopard features. He is in turn complemented by his beautiful wife, Gu, and his wild, grotesque brother, Zuali. Such representations are owned by certain families that use them as the loci of sacrificial offerings proposed by diviners to improve their well-being. In contrast, other Guro mask forms, which serve only as sources of entertainment, are designed by individual performers.
This mask is remarkable for its sweeping form, in which every part of the face answers to the line of the hair. A traditional hairstyle is depicted, with all the hair gathered up into a broad leather band from which it falls in two long, tapering plaits, often mistaken for horns. The eyes are horizontal and do not slant upward, as in the distinctive style developped by the master carver identified as "Master of Zuenola" and, more recently, "Master of the Bron-Guro."
[Henri Kamer, Paris and New York, or Charles Ratton, Paris]; Gertrud A. Mellon, New York, until 1977

Fagg, William B. African Sculpture. Washington, DC: International Exhibitions Foundation, 1970.

Jones, Mark. The art of the medal. London, 1979, pp. 91–96.

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