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Dean Gle Mask

Arts of Africa

Historically, Dan society vested political leadership in a council of elders. Masks served as agents of social control, enforcing the council’s rules and orders. The masked figures were believed to be incarnate spiritual beings capable of rendering unbiased judgments. The specific functions of individual masks, once removed from their village contexts, are impossible to determine. Here, the nearly closed eyes and small mouth contrast with those of other masks and probably indicate that this example served in a peacemaking function and generally created harmony in the community. On the other hand, the form of the bu gle mask (no. 2) with projecting eyes and mouth was designed to be deliberately frightening.
MEDIUM Wood, pigment
DATES late 19th–early 20th century
DIMENSIONS 9 3/4 x 6 x 3 in. (24.8 x 15.2 x 7.6 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of Africa
CREDIT LINE Gift of Evelyn K. Kossak
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Oval shaped with full lips that are arched, delicate nose with slightly flared nostrils, and coffee bean shaped slit eyes. Forehead is rounded and has a median ridge. Eyes are rimmed in thin line of white pigment that extends to bridge of nose. The rim of the mask is pierced for attachments. The entire surface has a deep rich brown glossy patina. The entire surface has a deep rich brown glossy patina. Condition: Very good. Surface erosion, particularly on forehead area and on rim as a result of wear and use. There are 4 small openings in upper lip where metal teeth (no longer present) were inserted; the fifth opening on right still has the tooth.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Dan. Dean Gle Mask, late 19th–early 20th century. Wood, pigment, 9 3/4 x 6 x 3 in. (24.8 x 15.2 x 7.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Evelyn K. Kossak, 80.244. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 80.244_PS2.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 80.244_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2007
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