Masterpieces of African Art
from the Collection of the Late Werner Muensterberger
Sotheby's New York
10 AM, May 11, 2012
Luluwa Helmet Mask," Democratic Republic of the Congo, 13 3/4 inches
By Carter B. Horsley
Werner Muensterberger (1913-2011) was a psychoanalyst, art collector
and author of several books and the catalogue for this auction has an
essay on him by Richard Feigen who described him as "an elegant,
faschinating man of the old school."
"I came to trust his insights, his experience, his judgement.
Although I know nothing about African art, even I sensed the
quality of the objects in his sitting room," Mr. Feigen wrote.
"During a long life that spanned nearly a century, he crossed the
pathers of the likes of Pablo Picasso, Sigmund Freud, Walt Disney,
Louise Bourgeois, Nelson Rockefeller, Constantine Brancusi..., Albert
Einstein, Charles Ratton....Legendary actors such as Danny Kaye,
Laurence Olivier, James Dean and Marlon Brando lay on the couch of his
New York psychoanalytic practice."
His father manufactured women's hats in Hoerde, near Dortmund, Germany
and he got his first introduction to African art through a
distant relative of his mother, Eduard Freiherr von der
Heydt, who gave his major collection to Zurich where it forms
the core of the Reitberg Museum and his modern paintings were given in
1952 to the City Museum Wuppertal, which is today called the Von der
Over the yearsm Muensterberger parted with some of his prized works.
One wss a Benin ivory statue of Opa that he had acquired in 1947 form
Sodney Brney Gallery and substenqetly sold to Julius Carlebacvh he
later sold it to Nelson Rockefeller who donated it in1978 to the
Metrpolitan Museum ofArt.
Another ws a Senufo Female Figure that was considered very important
and an icon of "universal art." It acquired in in 1958 from
Emil Storrer who had collected it in situ. Muensterberg later
sold to to William Rubin,who consigned it to Sotheby's in 1991 where it
became the first African artwork to sell in excess of $1 million.
In 1959, he acqured the Luluwa Mask, Lot 62, from Merton D. Simpgon in
New York. It is illustrated at the top of this article and is
the cover illustration for the auction's catalogue that states
that it stands as an icon of Central African Art.
to the catalogue, it can only be compared to the famous Luba helmet
mask with curved horns in the Museum Royal de 'Afrique Centrale,
":Merging stylistic influences from various neighboring peoples, it is
a keystone for the understsanding of Central African sculpture. "With
its highly refined naturalism, tits harmonious proportions, and its
symmetrical scarificaton patterns, the Meunsterberg mask is the
quintessential embodiment of the Luluwas concept of beauty."
The head has a flat, thin metal "hat" near some worn down braids.
It has an estimate of $1,500,000 to$2,500,000. It sold for
$2,546,500 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in
61, Sapi (proto-temne) stone head, Sierra Leone, 7 1/2 inches high
61 is a Sapi (proto-temne) stone head from Sierra Leone that is 7 1/2
inches high and was acquired from Merton D.Simpson in New York in 1973.
It has an estimateof
$250,000 to $350,000. It
sold for $242,500.
Lot 60, Female Funerary Figure,
Vezo, Madagascar, 20 inches high.
29 is an eroded by impressive female funerary figure from Vezo,
Madagascar. It is wood and 20 inches high. It has
estimate of $12,000 to $18,000. It sold for $20,000.
"Anthropomorhic sculpture, by Magdalene Odundo, 16 7/8 inches high
64 is a stunning. modern abstract sculpture of a broad, curved
container with an angled and flaring neck opening. It is by
Magdlane Oduncdo (b. 1950 in Nairobi). Her ceramics, the
catalogue states, "are hand built, using a coiling technique that does
not use the wheel and the surfaces are not glazed but burnished.
The artist is represented in many museums. The lot
esitmate of $40,000 to $60,000. It
sold for $134,500.