• Bali & Java

    More about repros

    Q: I bought the mask in an small antique book shop off of Piazza Navona, Rome, in 2016. I paid 100 Euro for it. The store attendant did not speak much English but I got the impression the mask was there for a long time. I liked it as it was reminiscent of a Javanese Monkey mask circa 1920 that I already owned… something about the eyes. The mustache is made of some kind of hair. It is light weight wood and the circle around the nose looks less like a break than paint chipping, but I can’t be sure. I collect but more for enjoyment then anything else. I…

  • Bali & Java

    Bagong mask from Java

    Q: I purchased this mask at an antique shop in Virginia. I am wondering where it is from and was it made to be worn or is it just a tourist trade item. It is about 6.5 inches wide and high, appears to be carved from coconut or some very light weight wood. I think I paid about $50 for it. Curious about the flame symbol at the eye point. Is it Buddhist of some sort? Richard, 1694 A: Your Bagong half mask is traditional and seems to have been used. Bagong masks are also made with the jaw, but they cost a little more and don’t permit drinking. The…

  • Bali & Java

    Barong mask from Bali

    Q: Does anyone know what kind of mask this is? Thanks! Stephanie, 1652 A: Because of its poor craftsmanship it could come from a rural village, or maybe it’s just a cheap tourist souvenir. I thought it should be posted because I’ve never seen one that looks like this. Barongs are supposed to be protective spirits that patrol the village border to sniff out dangerous demons and scare them away. The mask is worn with a very elaborate costume. Barongs are also danced in some of the traditional dramas. I’m pleased that masquerade is still widely practiced all over this Indonesian island.

  • Bali & Java

    Newer mask from urban Java

    Q: Can anyone offer info on this mask? I’m thinking Javanese/Indonesian, but my knowledge is virtually nil! Phil, 1647 A: Check out the Javanese mask posted four days ago. This Topeng character mask is much more common today. When they come from prosperous communities where professional dancers performer, the masks are more carefully carved and painted than this one. B

  • 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…