• Native America

    Iroquois false face mask

    The False Face Society is probably the best known of the medicinal societies among the Iroquois, especially for its dramatic wooden masks. The design of the masks is somewhat variable, but most share certain features. The eyes are deep-set and accented by metal. The noses are bent and crooked. The other facial features are variable. The masks are painted red and black. Most often they have pouches of tobacco tied onto the hair above their foreheads. Basswood is usually used for the masks although other types of wood are sometimes used. Horse tail hair is used for the hair, which can be black, reddish brown, brown, grey or white. The…

  • Native America

    Southwest Indian mask

    Q: Here’s one I stumbled upon at a thrift shop. It appears to be Pueblo-inspired. It also appears to be a recent creation, perhaps crafted for the tourist trade. Regardless, I think it’s special and wanted to share it with you. Any input you may have is welcomed. Eric, 1516 A: It certainly is special if you collect Native American masks. Though you knew it was a cheap replica, I don’t think you would mortgage your house for the authentic mask I posted at the end. Worse than the high price, you might also be sued by the Hopi people. The following appeared in the press six years ago. “Dozens…

  • Europe

    Tschäggättä mask from the Swiss Alps

    Q: The mask was found in an attic in North Carolina. It is roughly 10 inches tall (minus the hair) and 8 inches wide. It appears to have real teeth. The number 18 is stamped in the back. Josh, 1515 A: This copy has been removed because it was incorrect.

  • East Asia

    Exorcising mask from Guizhou, PRC

    Q: I’ve long been interested in the nature, age and quality of this Chinese carved wooden face mask with articulating eye openings and movable jaw. It’s about life size 29 x 17cm. Thanks for your consideration. Arthur, 1514 A: Thank you for waiting so long for my reply. Your mask has a very interesting look to it with the two heads on the side, its eyes and jaw, and lack of paint. Probably authentic in the sense that tourists and exporters would want nothing to do with it. Can’t find anything similar in my research. Guizhou Province is a guess. China is the largest and one of the oldest countries…

  • India & Himalayas,  Misc

    Sri Lankan Maha Kola mask

    Q: This Sri Lanka “mask” that, as I told you previously, is one of my favorites. At first, thinking it was a tourist item and I didn’t want to post it here. But after some internet research I decided to try as well because I never find another piece so colorful and careful made. I guess it could be vintage or made by an artist. Thank you again for your interest. 30 cm high and half-soft wood. She’s missing a piece on her hands. Monica, 1513 A: Sorry to take so long to post this. We seem to have corrected our computer problems. I’m glad you sent this. Even though…

  • Africa

    Puno maiden spirit mask

    Q: I bought 5 carved wooden masks from an estate sale in 2008 for about $10 each. I knew nothing about masks and didn’t receive any info about them when I purchased them. I just knew I really liked them. (The sale was like an indoor “yard sale” for an dear gentleman who died–had traveled a lot and collected a lot of art/objects from this travels. They all look old, none are ornate, none have any bright colors (natural colors, not much painting), 4 have faces roughly of this one’s shape but one has a round face with raffia bears.This mask’s size: about 13″ tall, 7″ wide, 5″ deep at…

  • Africa

    One of my favorite masks… Chewa

    As a long-time mask collector I’m going to occasionally blog about an ethnic group I am especially attracted to. Let’s start with the Chewa people of Malawi in East Africa. Their Nyau masks are different and come as a surprise every time. Though often quickly made, they are always a showpiece of creative art. The four shown here represent lesser characters in a dance. They a readily available and, even though authentic, can be bought for a affordable price. The Chewa have larger masks of gods and spirits which are rarely sold. Chewa masks are not popular with most collectors or museums. They are often omitted from collections and books.…

  • Native America

    Eskimo small stone mask

    Q: I found this stone mask in Barrow, Alaska, on the beach and I was wondering if you could help me identify it. It is five inches high. Mechelle, 1501 A: A small stone face found of the beach in Barrow (in the far north) would likely have been made by the Inupiaq people. It is too small to be a real mask. It could have been made by a shaman and placed in a kayak for protection or good luck. Lots of small stone sculptures are made by the Inupiaq for different purposes, the most common being sale to tourists. More information is needed to determine value.

  • East Asia

    Maiden mask from Korea

    Q: I know you don’t choose more than a mask per person, but I have some doubt on this concubine Korean mask. It’s made of light wood and if you look at it from the front it seems to be old. She seems to have also a scar on her face maybe made to strengthen stage lights. But the rear makes me wonder. It looks new and has a red print. Could you please tell me something about it? Monica, 1509 A: Your mask is old and probably used briefly. It has been broken in half which will lower its value only a bit. Try to get a translation of…

  • Misc

    Mardi Gras in Louisiana

    Three days ago I wrote about the Mummers parade in Philadelphia. The other famous US masquerade spreads can be found in many parts of Louisiana. The big parade in New Orleans is a famous tourist event. The masks and costumes look a lot like the carnival in Venice. However, there are many smaller parades in the rural areas that are unique. Michael Welsh writes in Acadiana: “Wherever Mardi Gras is celebrated, the mask is key. Behind the best masks, they can’t tell whether you are laughing or crying. They can’t tell how absolutely drunk you are. The mask helps erase consequence. “Riders want folks to say, ‘Well, I didn’t see…