Elegant Lwalwa mask – Inspiration for Picasso?
IN ITS LINE FROM THE FOREHEAD TO THE TIP OF THE NOSE, WE CAN SEE THE INSPIRATION FOR PICASSO’S sculture AND SPECIFICALLY THAT OF MARIE-THERESE WALTER.
IN ORDER TO DEPICT MARIE-THERESE WALTER , PICASSO CREATED SHAPES AND FORMS INSPIRED BY AFRICAN MASKS, PARTICULARLY THOSE OF THE LWALWA PEOPLE.
Picasso took from the Lwalwa masks the crest of the nose, the central element of the face, which, highlighted with balance and elegance, gives rhythm to the overall object. By using rounder lines than those present on the masks, Picasso suggests the softness of female facial features, despite suggesting an imposing appearance. Other elements of the face, the eyes and mouth, are amplified in the same way as on the Lwalwa mask. Picasso appears to be experimenting with the same principles: not deforming the facial features, but harmoniously accentuating them.
Marie-Thérèse Walter, Picasso’s muse and mistress, is therefore given a fixed and calculated appearance, her extremely sculptural face resembling a mask. Her eyes have an interrogatory quality, like those of a sphinx ready to set a puzzle.
Currently the sculpted portraits of Marie-Thérèse Walter can be seen at an exhibition in the Musée national Picasso-Paris : (March 8 – August 28 2016)
MARIE-THERESE WALTER (1909–1977)
Our Lwalwa mask presents geometrical features:
a lozenge-shaped, concave face, rectangular eyes, and a prominent circular black mouth.
Only three colours are used-red, white and black-giving rhythm and grace.
These masks, discovered in Europe during the 1930s, at that time echoed the fashion for geometric lines that had arisen in around 1925 with the Art Deco movement. At that time, they therefore matched the prevailing taste in modern art.
These are male masks with very distinctive shapes: the angular, protuberant crest of the nose goes from the lower part of the face to the back of the skull. Reminiscent of a bird, the mask thus mixes human- and animal-like elements (Ceyssens, in Tervuren, 1995, p. 328). The top of the mask, black in colour and delineated by a border at the top of the head, is decorated with white stripes.
In general terms, the mask—the sculpted object worn on the face along with the costume that covers the wearer’s whole body—appears during ceremonial activities, during which it typically dances according to a strict, codified choreography. The artefact we see exhibited in galleries is only an inanimate fragment of what African traditions mean by the mask. As a sculpture that receives a magic divinatory mixture in order to function, the mask lives and breathes thanks to its wearer, whose body cannot be seen and identified: only the mask itself can perform actions. We can speak of the anonymity of the wearer or dancer just as we speak of that of the sculptor.
THE LWALWA PEOPLE
The origins of the Lwawa are closely tied to those of the Kete, living in the north. Since the 17th century, the Lwalwa, settled between the Lunda and Luba peoples, have refused to pay tribute.
The Lwalwa live near the Kasai, between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. However, Lwalwa culture is closer to that of the Yaka and the Suku.
Lwalwa art is best known for its stylised and cubistic masks, in which the profile of the nose on the concave face makes reference to the long beak of the hornbill.
This Lwalwa mask is used during initiation and propitiatory ceremonies.
Come and enjoy our LWALWA mask
8-12 june 2016, Brussels – Sablon.
We are exhibiting at « CULTURES THE WORLD ARTS FAIR » in Brussels.
This prestigious June event is one of out most important World Arts Fair will soon become a global reference for seasoned collectors as well as amateurs interested in Asian, antique and non-European art.
We look forward to seeing you there.
Editor in chief & Expert
Coryse Mwape Dolin
Art Historian, African Arts
Marie-Louise Bastin.- Introduction aux Arts d’Afrique Noire. Arnouville, Arts d’Afrique Noire, 1984. p. 327.
Joseph A. Cornet.- Zaïre. Peuples, Art, Culture. Anvers, Fonds Mercator, 1989. p. 264.
William Rubin (dir.)– Le Primitivisme dans l’art du 20e siècle. Les artistes modernes devant l’art tribal. 2 Vol. Paris, Flammarion, 1991.
Michael Kan and Roy Sieber.- African masterworks in the Detroit Institute of arts. Detroit, Detroit Institute of arts, 1995.
“IN ITS LINE FROM THE FOREHEAD TO THE TIP OF THE NOSE (2), WE CAN SEE THE INSPIRATION FOR PICASSO’S sculpted portrait (1).”
(1) Pablo Picasso – Photo Lucien Clergue & Plasters of Bust of a Woman and Head of a Woman, Boisgeloup, December 1932. Photo by Brassaï. Archives Picasso, Musée Picasso, Paris –
(2) Elegant Lwalwa mask – Alain Naoum Gallery
MARIE-THERESE WALTER (1909–1977)
(3) Photograph by Picasso of Marie-Thérèse Walter with her mother’s dog, Dolly, Alfortville, France, c. 1930. Archives Maya Widmaier Picasso
(4)Plasters of Bust of a Woman and Head of a Woman, Boisgeloup, December 1932. Photo by Brassaï. Archives Picasso, Musée Picasso, Paris
(1)Pende ceremony (Jean Cornet 1989, 292)
(2) Ciwara crested mask (Colleyn 2001, 205)