India & Himalayas

Don’t be fooled by old looks


Q:  We purchased this mask and have no idea about it.  It is made of one piece of wood.  The motif atop the mask is of a man riding a cat which has a man in it’s  mouth.  There appears to be an export wax stamp on it but we cannot make out the characters and there is a price tag of $890.00.  Lizzy, 675

A:  Masks like this have a nice antique feel and are excellent wall hangings. The style is Himalayan. Probably made in Nepal for the tourist trade in recent years. By searching Google images you might be able to identify this particular deity. The bad news is that tourist masks are often way overpriced. My advice to inexperienced collectors is never pay more than $100 for a mask unless it’s from a reputable tribal art dealer or museum store.  C

One Comment

  • Alain Rouveure

    I just came across this wonderful site about masks. How l missed it all those years…? OK. Your mask is very decorative and very probably made in Nepal and definitely made for the tourist market as our friend above wrote.
    I am behind him/her about the trap. There are loads of “decorative masks” made every day and this one is no different. It is decorative but does not represent anything is particular.
    The individual on a tiger could be the Hindu goddess Durga, but she would never be represented nude…so that’s a no then. The stylised snakes on the forehead could be the “Nagas” , but would never be depicted like this…so its a no again.
    The style is definitely taken from old catalogues/ books of collections of Himalayan Primitive masks that have been published over the past few years.
    Craftsmen in Nepal get their inspiration from such publications and add a bit more to them.
    I have been traveling and regularly working in Nepal since 1979. I have seen and handled literally thousands of masks and seen similar ones, although never the same. It could be unique. The wax stamp at the back is the seal of export out of Nepal for goods that are less than 50 years old.
    As for the price you paid for it….if it was sold as an “rare antique tantric shaman’s mask” it is wrong. If it was genuine it would be incredibly cheap.
    Yes it is highly decorative and some people pay millions for splashes of paint on canvas. If you think of parting with it, you will find it hard to get your money back, but good luck.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

I accept the Privacy Policy