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24 April

Aube Breton-Elléouët and Oona Elléouët

Born in 1935, Aube is André Breton and Jacqueline Lamba's daughter. Oona Elléouët is her daughter and therefore André Breton's grand-daughter.

A great discoverer of talents, and a friend of Claude Lévi-Strauss, the artist André Breton regularly collected art works from Oceania and North America (masks from New-Ireland or Kachina Hopi dolls of Arizona for example).

His first acquisition was a small wooden sculpture from Easter Island, a part of the world which occupies a singular place in the Surrealist map. «Easter Island!Few names have aroused as many dreams» he writes inThe Magic Art(Edition of the Amis du Club français du Livre, 1957).

While Oceanian pieces, by their «primal innocence» inseparable from an extreme ritual and formal complexity, inspired him to pen strange poems loaded with mystery, the arts of North America aroused in him reflections that were more general in scope.Thus, during his exile in America, during the war, he studied with immense precision the transformation masks from the North-West Pacific coast, which will be the subject of an important text (Note on the transformation masks from the North-West Pacific Coast, Editions of Herne, Paris, 1961).The André Breton collection got scattered about at the auction at the Hôtel Drouot between 1st to 18th April 2003 and it was the occasion for a memorable sale. The musée du quai Branly volunteered to acquire an exceptional articulated mask through preemption during this sale. At the end of the sale, Aube Breton-Elléouët and Oona Elléouët donated it generously to the museum.

Haida anthropomorphous transformation mask

This mask, comes from Queen Charlotte island (British Columbia) and was part of André Breton's art collection from North America.

haida anthropomorphous transformation mask - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
haida anthropomorphous transformation mask (America), beginning of the 19th century.
haida anthropomorphous transformation mask - Click to enlarge, open in a new window
Donation of Aube Breton-Elléouët and Oona Elléouët © musée du quai Branly, photos Patrick Gries, Valérie Torre

This mask with its articulated eyes and jaw, which brings to mind the exploits of mythical heroes, accompanies religious ceremonies for initiation purposes. It depicts the ancestors of clans or the partner spirits of ancestors. A considerable number of red or black coloured drawings or tattoos, in the shape of wings spread around the eyes and in the shape of feathers are visible on the cheeks.The upper lip has small holes pierced into it which must have been used for holding a leather moustache but which has disappeared today. The inner part of the mask is fitted with tenons and strings which allow manipulation of the moving parts. Moon crescents are painted on the temples and on the eye balls, and appear when the eyes are closed, signalling the alternation between day and night.

Description of this mask in the book Tu fais peur, tu émerveilles by Germain Viatte (RMN, 2006) :

«André Breton had published it for the first time in the magazine Neuf mentioning " the property that a few of their elements have of swivelling around themselves, in such a way as to modify the configuration of the whole thing and, if required, the signification […] the surprise element, which plays such a significant role in the modern artistic conception, is displayed here as nowhere before […] there is no static work of art, how so ever renowned it may be, that could as compared to this support comparison about life (and anguish).This Haida mask […] is the one whose extraordinarily hard and fixed stare can be shrouded by turquoise eyelids. Like the other it is likely to snap the jaw and whose blinking eyes manages the transition from the sun to the moon"»