• Bali & Java

    Character mask from rural Java

    Q: I have what I think is an interesting mask. I don’t know the differences between masks from Java and those from Bali though. This one looks authentic because of the signs of wear, patina, and the old leather tab for the dancer’s mouth to hold on to. I got it on eBay for forty bucks. Thanks much. Steve, 1645 A: This is a popular long-nosed character from one of the classic Topeng dance dramas. As you can see, an inch or more of the nose has been broken off. Most of the Javanese masks we see on are very skillfully made in cities, towns and nearby villages. This one…

  • Bali & Java

    Unusual Balinese monkey mask

    Q: Here’s an interesting Balinese mask I picked up recently. I don’t know which character it represents since there are several simian characters in Balinese topeng, but I thought the pompadour was unusual, and it’s very well-carved. The ears are separate pieces lashed on with twine. Dan, 1589 A: I agree. It is well designed, carefully made, and not something you see very often. Sorry, I can’t tell which simian characters it represents. The Mask Man isn’t an expert on everything! I’ll bet you only paid a modest price for it. I want our readers to realize that high quality reproductions are available, and they look just as good on…

  • Bali & Java

    Old Balinese mask

    Q: Wondering about the history of this mask. My grandfather was on the USS Baltimore during WW11. He brought this mask home, called her ‘Callie’, hung her over the back door and said she would ward off evil. No one remembers anything else. Kati, 1564 A: You have a mask made for the classic dance dramas of Bali. Poorly carved and painted, it is probably from a small village, 75 to 100 years ago. It has been quickly repaired and repainted to attract off-duty sailors. Because of its sloppy appearance and interesting history, I think it would add something unusual to a collection of Balinese masks. B-

  • Bali & Java

    Balinese clown mask

    Q: Unfortunately, this time I messed up. I made an offer for a minimum price and it was accepted. I’m pretty sure it’s a fake. No holes for eyes, red paint. You can confirm? Thank you, Monica, 1561 A: Some of our viewers, especially beginning collectors, will appreciate your willingness to admit a mistake. If I were still collecting, I might have done the same. What you have is a clever interpretation of the ugly hair-lipped clown that delights audiences in performances of the Topeng dance drama. Though everything you feared is correct, this mask is a interesting version of the famous clown. It would be nice to hang it…

  • 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…

  • Bali & Java

    Balinese masks, the most dramatic

    In a post on Nov 18 called “6 Mexican Devil masks” I wrote:  “In my opinion African masks are the most artistic, Japanese the best made, and Mexican the most creative.” A few days later this comment arrived:  “I think we need to give a mention to Balinese masks. Having spent some time with mask makers in Ubud*, I think their quality and the dedication they put to their masks is on par with the Japanese, and their artistry is equivalent to that of Africa.” I agree. Look at this fabulous version of Hanuman, the white monkey god. His honest personality and magical powers make him an important character in…

  • Bali & Java

    Primitive tribal masks from Java

    There are Buddhist-Hindu people farming in the mountains of central and eastern Java that celebrate the classic Topeng dance dramas.  Being in remote areas and without much money, they have learned to make their own character masks. They can be crude and rough, but at the same time, very creative. The colorful one is in poor condition and the the black one with hair has big mirrored eyes. Let me know if you like or dislike these strange Indonesian masks.

  • Bali & Java

    Did she get a good deal?

    Q:  I bought this very cool mask in Ubud, Bali at an Antique shop. I believe it is depicting the deity Barong, a protective spirit. I’m not really sure how to tell how old it is or of it’s authenticity, but it sure is neat even if it’s just a low grade decorative piece! It’s about 9″ x 8″ with a depth of about 3.5-4″. It’s covered in some dirt and I’m not 100% sure how to best clean it without damage. Do you have any suggestions? It’s painted/stained with some red and gold tones and is definitely made of wood, but I’m not sure which kind. We didn’t pay…

  • Bali & Java

    Indonesian dance mask for the poor

    Q:  I got these at a online auction and that is all I know about them except the Egyptian looking one is a little smaller than the other two.  Charles, 1442A:  I believe this is a dance mask from the Diem Mountain region of Java. But I’m not sure. It could be from other rural regions of Java, Bali or Lombok. Carved by a poor man in a small village, it appears to be old and used. Masks from the urban areas are always of better craftsmanship. For the classic wayang topeng dance drama, this mask is pretty crude.  This is made worse by the angle of the first photograph.…

  • Bali & Java

    Old Java mask with nice patina

    Q:  We bought the two golden masks from a large online dealer last year for fifteen dollars each.  Some research indicated that the black mask which we have had for over two years now was from Bali in Indonesia.  But that is all we know.  The large golden mask is seven and a half inches high by 6 inches wide..  I am attaching photos including the mask I already sent, and front and back views of the other two masks.  Thanks for the prompt reply and your interest.  Robert, 1426 A:  I like all three of your masks, but this one, a female character from Topeng dance drama, is my favorite. It is a popular…