• 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…

  • Bali & Java

    Pale blue Javanese mask

    Q:  I would love some help with this mask. I picked it up in an antique/junk store in Maine. It was one of the higher priced items in the place. I paid $75 for it because I loved the look. The shop owner new nothing about it. It shows age, is made of a soft wood, and hand painted. Any info would be much appreciated.  Steven, 1419 A:  This female character mask has an unusual color combination that is quite pleasant. It appears to have been used and could be old. Look closely at the rear and you can see two holes that were used to hold a bite bar…

  • 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…

  • Bali & Java

    Cululuk, a witch from Bali

    Q:  My parents bought this mask in Bali in 1968 or so, they told me it was Hanuman, but I don’t think so.  Can you recognize the character?  Initially he had long black hair.  You can see it had real animal hide and we used to hang it by the string on its forehead.  Heather, 1405 A:  Cululuk is one of several witches in Calonarang, a very popular dance drama still performed on the island nation of Bali, Indonesia. Your piece is slightly above average in craftsmanship. It is in new condition– so it could be used by a dance company from a small town or sold to tourists. It…

  • Bali & Java

    The famous Rangda mask

    Q:  I’ve got a beautiful mask which I believe is the evil one. It came into my hands about 8 years ago from my uncle who traveled the world and collected masks. He told me to look after it as it could be worth something in a few years. I took the mask to a very good friend of mine who is actually from Bali Indonesia and she said the same. I believe it’s some sort of carved wood with horse hair. It’s such a shame to have it stored away so I was looking at selling it. The mask has a slight damage which is a bit of one…

  • Bali & Java

    Another unusual Balinese mask

    Q:  Purchased 02/19/2018 for $10.99.  Raquel, 1293 A:  Everything I just said to Brian applies to Raquel’s mask as well. On both we can see a slightly reduced quality typical of tourist masks. Those made for professional dancers are much finer… and more expensive. Most of these, both tourist and professional, come from either Mas or Singapadu, Bali, and are produced by hereditary carvers with excellent training. Please let us know who this guy is!  C+