• Africa

    Another water spirit from Nigeria

    Q:  Found at town dump in a small town with old families.  Fred, 1466 A:  I just posted one of these September 26, 2018. It was an old, used example from the Met. Yours is a new one of good quality, possibly meant for use or sale. It has high value because water spirit headdresses from the Ijebu (also spelled Ijaw, Ijo) are hard to find. “Water deities are perceived to be the forces ultimately responsible for individual acquisition of wealth and power. Among the Kalabari, an Ijo subgroup that occupies the eastern part of the delta, one of the most important village institutions is the Ekine society, an association…

  • East Asia

    Noh mask from Japan

      A book called Japanese Noh Masks shows almost 300 different characters from the Noh plays. This one is called Imawaka. The workmanship is fabulous. It is new and could be used by an actor, collector or decorator. Here is a short piece written by Stella Ko, of CNN… Their almond-shaped eyes stare blankly into space. The ambivalent corners of their mouths leave their moods utterly indiscernible.These wooden masks, used in an ancient form of Japanese theater called Noh, were made to be expressionless. But performers are charged with using slight and subtle movements to reveal the hidden emotions carved into each one. Dating back almost 1,000 years, Noh is…

  • Mexico

    Mexican day of the dead mask

    A dealer says “These high quality clay skulls are a representation of the traditional sugar skulls, which are part of the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Mexican Holiday. They are made of clay and hand painted by the indigenous people in Mexico. These are truly unique clay skulls and they make a great addition to any collection.” They are more often made of paper mache and can be worn as masks. The celebration of Day of the Dead is practiced by most Mexicans. Millions are made each year and they are always artistic, whether complete skulls or masks. In our category called Miscellaneous we show a number…

  • Africa

    3 Guro antelope masks from West Africa

    The Guro are a large ethnic group in Ivory Coast. They are known for the decorative masks they sell to tourists and export to the entire world. These impressive examples of tribal art are not authentic, but I admire their beauty. You can find plenty of them on the internet. Here are three used Guro antelope masks that would be prized by serious collectors. They look different from each other, and not much like the tourist masks. I think this may be because of age, the first being most recent and the last maybe 75 years old. The middle one has a jet plane painted on it.  I’m pleased to…

  • Africa

    Value of tribal masks from high to low

    Q: My opinion is that the masks field can be subdivided in 4 parts, considering two criteria “use” and “age”: As far as the ethnographic interest is concerned, the criterion “use” seems the most important to me, whatever old or recent. The criterion “age” intervenes mainly in the determination of the commercial value of the mask. – Old and used : the best, but certainly the most difficult to find today, and the most expensive – Old and not (or scarcely) used: unfrequented situation (the mask that has spent years in collections) – Recent and used : those used today in dances or dramas – Recent and not used :…

  • East Asia,  Misc

    Japan uses the most masks

    The picture shows a finely made, possibly very old, Japanese character mask. It could be Waka Otoko or Hatachi Amari from the Noh theater, or even a older Bugaku masks. I just don’t know. There so many masks, some of which go way back in history. There are more old masks in Japanese collections than anywhere. But there’s more. The Japanese use masks a lot. Usage includes Noh theater, village plays, temple performances, parades, celebrations, export, souvenirs for tourists, gifts, home decoration and sword fighting. No wonder collecting Japanese masks is so popular. On pages 54-56 of Masks of the World by Ibold and Yohn there are 24 shown and…

  • Africa

    African mask that change the art world

    You are looking at the famous Fang Nigil mask. Typically they are large, elongated masks covered with kaolin and featuring a face that was usually heart-shaped with a long, fine nose. This is one of the many African masks collected by European explorers in the 19th century. When the great modern artist of France first saw these amazing wood sculptures their concepts changed dramatically. Many contemporary artist, especially in the West, art still big admirers of African traditional art. The Ngil is my favorite! The Fang people used masks in their secret societies. Members of this male society wore the Ngil masks during the initiation of new members and the…

  • Africa

    Tourist mask… from Africa or Asia?

    Q:  I am sincerely hoping you can help solve a 25 year mystery. When I picked up this mask in a junk shop in Yorkshire for £5 the shop owner ‘wanted it out’. In all those years I have searched until I have gone mask blind and never found anything similar. Could you please shed some light on it’s origins, is it ritualistic? It is finely carved, yet the pentagram on the forehead looks crude and possibly added later. Could it have had a stick at the bottom to hold over the face? The only fastening marks are where I removed vintage electrical wire used for hanging. I love it…

  • Africa

    Contemporary African masks are rejected.

    Mende Ode-Lay mask from Sierra Leone, Bobo butterfly mask from Burkina Faso, and the Dogon traditional mask from Mali were all used in the 21st century. They are truly authentic, and well made. I believe all three should be in collections, or famous museum with displays of African art. African traditional art has always evolved. Today masks are made with steel tools, painted with bright enamel, and often decorated with store-bought materials. Right now you can buy them for a very reasonable price. Almost all of the masks, as well as other carvings, put on the market today are supposed to look old and used. They are neither. What you…

  • Guatemala

    Guatemalan Jaguar mask

    Q:  I have a picture of mask that was purchased out of country and need origin and value. Can I send a picture? It’s a set of two. Please email me.  Tammy, 1457 A:  This exciting mask portrays a jaguar (or tigre in Spanish) that is a character in several Guatemalan dances. These beautiful cats were once the top predator in Mexico all the way down to Argentina. Today they survive in only a few remote forest. How sad it is.  Sorry, we only do one mask per person, per month. Nor do we appraise for free. Instead, we often end the answer with a letter grade.  B