Bali & Java

Pentul the clown, Java

Q:  The masks were found at an antiques mall in Alabama by a friend who was visiting the area and who knew I collect such things.  He sent the photos and I told him to get both of them.  Cost was $35 apiece; the vendors knew nothing about them.  I’ll shoot them tomorrow with my camera and send proper shots…those that I sent were from his phone.  I am not a collector per se, but I lived and worked in Guatemala and Mexico years ago and acquired masks as part of my broader interest in folk art.  I have worked in the Amazon Basin for the past 26 years and have a lot of material from that area as well.

The two red masks both bear single rows of teeth, each has a bite bar, and the extremely large nose is similar on each.  When I first saw the pics I assumed Chiapas, yellow pine, perhaps the 1960s or 70s.  I now think that was totally off the mark and see them as likely being Topeng Dance Masks from Java or Lombok, and while one bears horns and thus may represent Satan or demonic Ranga, the other could be Pentul the clown.  Or am I again totally off mark?   William, 1407

A:  Thanks for your explanation. You figured out the character and location of the two similar masks, probably made by the same guy from a small town in eastern Java. Used or not, they are certainly authentic. You made a good buy.  A-

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