Mombakkes I (Mask)


Oil on canvas

57 x 44.5 x 3 cm (22 7/16 x 17 1/2 x 1 3/16 in.)

A bust of a man wearing red make-up on his mouth and cheeks appears in close-up. Unlike the eyes of a mischievous clown, his gaze is lost in the distance, while his made-up smile looks more like a sneer.

The unnerving weirdness of Michäel Borremans' Mombakkes I (Mask) lies in the tension between the figure's make-up, evoking the merriness of commedia dell'arte, to which the artist often refers, and the melancholy or even extreme loneliness betrayed by his features. The artist says he is not interested in painting portraits of reality but prefers masked figures to which he gives the dramatic character and role of his choice. He says his works are anonymous paintings of types: "When I paint men, they are never individuals. They are always symbolic versions.”

Mombakkes I (Mask) was shown for the first time by the Pinault Collection during the exhibition "Mapping the Studio" (2009-2011) at the Punta della Dogana and Palazzo Grassi in Venice.