Decorative art– not masks

Q: I get questions (with three attached scans) almost every day. Most of the time these “mystery masks” are quickly made carvings for the tourist trade that have little artistic value and no ethnographic significance. Often they were from thrift shops. These three are of some value.

A: The first one is from someplace in China where they have a group of master carvers who have been making these mask-like sculptures for many years. They are always highly detailed and sometimes have glass eyes.

Second is a heavy ceramic wall-hanging from Mexico which resembles a pre-Columbian god. I think it is a handsome piece of decorative art. Unfortunately, the sellers usually claim these items to be valuable antiquities and ask for hundreds of dollars.

The last one is metal and stunning in appearance. I don’t know how old it is or where it was made. With decorative art it’s all about looks. Authentic masks can be beautiful, but they will be interesting for many other reasons as well. C+

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