Karanga masks are danced at funerals in highly acrobatic, dramatic performances designed to emphasize their sculptural height. Most Mossi masks take the form of a totemic animal that protects a particular family from harm. This mask may be associated with the antelope, as the two projecting horns suggest.
The French ethnologist Frederick-Henri Lem collected this karanga mask in French West Africa between 1934 and 1935 as part of a scientific and collecting expedition. After this trip it entered the New York collection of Helena Rubinstein, the wealthy cosmetics entrepreneur, for whom Lem later worked. An influential tastemaker in many fields, Rubinstein was one of the most important collectors of African art in New York and Paris in the mid-twentieth century. This mask was offered at auction in 1966, when it was purchased by Milton Rosenthal and his wife, Frieda. A collector of many artistic genres, Frieda Rosenthal studied and taught non-Western art at Columbia University.
- Culture: Mossi
- Medium: Wood, pigment
- Place Made: Nord Region, Burkina Faso
- Dates: early 20th century
- Dimensions: 63 x 6 1/4 x 5 in. (160 x 15.9 x 12.7 cm)
- Collections:Arts of Africa
- Museum Location: This item is not on view
- Accession Number: 1992.74.1
- Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Milton F. Rosenthal in memory of Julia Forchheimer
- Rights Statement: Creative Commons-BY
- Caption: Mossi. Karanga Mask, early 20th century. Wood, pigment, 63 x 6 1/4 x 5 in. (160 x 15.9 x 12.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Milton F. Rosenthal in memory of Julia Forchheimer, 1992.74.1. Creative Commons-BY
- Catalogue Description: Oval face mask at base of flat vertical plank extension. Face bisected by raised vertical ridge with triangular cut out eyes on either side and linear designs incised on cheeks. Two long slender antelope-like horns extend from forehead, twisted and curved at tips. Surface of plank at back of head divided into painted rectangular quadrants with alternating motifs: triangular, herringbone and checkerboard designs. Finial form at top triangular. Two circular holes through sides at base of face. Colors: white, brown, and black. Condition: Some water damage around perimeter of face. Piece missing from base with crack extending around side. Repairs to several cracks toward top of plank - deepest one extends from top of plank downward. Paint missing in patches from surface.
- Record Completeness: Best (85%)