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Magnificent Mbunda at the MET

by Entwistle on 16 May 2017

An extraordinary mask from the Mbunda peoples of Zambia, acquired from Entwistle by a private collection in 2003 and accessioned by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 2016...

This powerful mask, or sachihongo, was formerly in the collections of Sir Jacob Epstein, London and Carlo Monzino, Lugano, Switzerland before being acquired in 2003 from Entwistle by a private American collection, from whom the MET acquired it in 2016 [Acc. No. 2016.106].  

With its interplay between realism and exaggeration, reflected in the remarkable brow ridge and cheeks, the mask reveals the influence of the neighbouring Chokwe peoples of Angola. According to Alisa LaGamma, this exceptional example is striking for its scale and the dramatic graphic emphasis given to the articulation of essential facial features such as the semi-circular voids that define the eyes and the emphatic series of concentric linear arcs above them.


The mask has been widely published and was exhibited in African Aesthetics: The Carlo Monzino Collection at The Center for African Art, New York in 1986; in La Grande Scultura dell'Africa Nera at Forte di Belvedere, Florence in 1989; in the exhibition Le Grand Héritage at the Musée Dapper, Paris in 1992; in the famed exhibition Africa: The Art of a Continent, held initially at the Royal Academy of Arts, London from 1995-1996 and then at Martin Gropius Bar, Berlin in 1996 and also in 1996 at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and in the exhibition Africa: Capolavori di un Continente, held at the Galleria d'Art Moderna (GAM), Turin in 2003-2004.

The mask is currently on display in Gallery 352 of the MET's galleries on Fifth Avenue.

Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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