Portrait Face Mask (Mblo) with Crest

unknown Baule

Ivory Coast, Africa

Portrait Face Mask (Mblo) with Crest

19th century

Wood and pigment
14 x 6 1/4 x 4 1/8 in. (35.6 x 15.9 x 10.5 cm)

The Portrait Face Masks of the Baule people of Ivory Coast were created as stylized representations of revered ancestors or community members. They were originally created for ceremonial purposes, but later were worn in dances called Mblo, for entertainment. With their organized geometry, smooth surfaces, and elongated structure, they exude an air of solemnity and dignity. Their downcast eyes and pursed mouth represent Baule ideas of propriety.

These masks often feature elaborately carved hairstyles and beards, as well as carefully rendered scarification along the forehead and cheeks, demonstrating regional differentiation.