Bali & Java

Village mask from Java

Q:  I just bought this mask on Ebay for $45.  I believe that it is from Bali.  What interested me is the leather tab seen on the inside of the mask, possible to be used by a dancer to hold on to it.  I thought you might be interested in the photos.  Thanks,  Deb, 1499

A:  On Feb 16 of this year someone sent in an interesting mask. I answered: “It is from Java, but not old. It is easy to see that this decorative wall-hanging was quickly carved, painted with some nice colors, and then antiqued to make it look old. Antiquing is easy to do with stained varnish and a rag. On this piece it is obvious, but some mask makers are very skilled and can fool you. Mickey bought it at a thrift store for very little money, but some tourists pay a lot more thinking the mask is authentic. I would advise people to always assume they’re purchasing a fake and pay accordingly.”

Now we have a different character from the Javanese dance dramas that looks even older and more used. The big question is authentic or a carefully antiqued mask made for tourist. Study these pics and see what you think.  C



  • jean

    Always difficult to be sure of the age of a piece seeing pics only. Most of the time we see artificially aged items, but it is also sad to condemn a good object, just because pics are misleading. I recently experience that with a mask from Guatemala, thought by some experts to be recent and artificially aged on the basis of poorly exposed pics, while it turned out to be an exceptional old object when in hands. In the present case, it could perhaps be good, there seems to be some traces of use and patina…but more pics should at least be required to confirm this impression. And when there is a doubt, nothing replaces real examination.

  • Bob Ibold

    Your are correct. I suggest you send the mask to a reliable appraiser. There are also labs that can determine age with analytical instrumentation. Either way, you will have to spend over $100. Good luck!

  • Pauline Chandler

    Hello there. Thank you for your recent comments regarding my Javanese red demon dance mask. Much appreciated. Do you have any view on cleaning masks? Mine seems a little grimy.

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