• Bali & Java

    Real masks from Lombok

    Q:  Attached are the old Lombok masks I told you about.  These are from the Sasak people and are probably meant for Topeng dance dramas.  One is a Raksa demon, the other I don’t recognize.  Aaron, 1060 A:  We hardly ever get to see the real masks actually used by the people of Lombok, Indonesia. They are so different from those over-decorated faces the island’s tourist industry produces.  A

  • Bali & Java

    Buying masks can be tricky

    Q:  I purchased a hand carved wooden mask in a lot at auction. It appears quite sinister. I am not well versed in masks but after a little research it looks similar to masks from Indonesia (Bali). My wife detests it and doesn’t want me bringing it in our house. Can you assist me in identifying this mask?  John, 1023 A:  It is a character from the traditional dance dramas of Indonesia, probably made somewhere on the main island of Java, west of Bali. Most serious collectors, such as myself, would agree with your wife. The mask was quickly carved and painted to begin with, then, purposely or accidentally, ruined.…

  • Bali & Java

    Bad guy from Bali

    Q:  All the art gallery told me when I bought it in 94 was that it was from Indonesia. I paid about $350 for it at that time. I know my melon of a head doesn’t fit in it, but a slightly smaller head would. Its made of wood, hand painted, with horse hair. That’s about all I know. It looks super cool, that’s for sure. It freaks most people out when they notice it on my wall. Chris, 1002 A:  There are lots of masked characters in the Topeng saga, one of the famous dance dramas performed on the island of Bali. This is one of the bad guys.…

  • Bali & Java

    Garuda mask from Bali

    Q:  I just got this mask from an Indonesian trader in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She claims it was made in rural Sarawak, Borneo. It is entirely carved out of wood (type unknown) and despite looking weathered and old, I believe it is relatively new. The price was MYR150 (less than USD40). Size-wise, it is approximately 8 inches tall and 5.5 inches wide. I’d be interested to know what type of mask this really is. The trader said it is not a Garuda, but nevertheless a bird design that they treat as a lucky charm.  Derrick, 976 A:   Your attractive mask is a Garuda, inexpensively made in Bali for the huge tourist and collector…

  • Bali & Java

    That old and used look

    Q:  This mask was given to me by an uncle who told me that it came from a collector of authentic masks and that is all I know about. It is made of some kind of wood and the hair is very course. The jaw of the mask is hinged for movement. The mask is 10 inches long by 8 inches wide. Any info would be greatly appreciated.  Phil, 947 A:  The character is Rangda from one of the classic dance dramas of Bali, Indonesia. It was made for sale to tourists or for export. That darkened varnish plus some dusting and roughing is what I refer to as “antiquing.”…

  • Bali & Java

    The dreaded Cakil from Java

    Q:  While in Yogyakarta last year, I spotted this Cakil topeng. After discovering the price tag, I spent a week looking for a similar mask of equal quality. Failing, I returned and paid 1.55 million Rupiah (after substantial haggling). A mark carved into the back is the emblem of the Sultan of Yogyakarta. The seller claimed it was at least 60 years old, likely more. An unrelated person recently told me the number of feathers on the wings of the crest indicate the mask was made during the reign of the seventh sultan. This would make it between 95 and 129 years old, but I can’t find anything to substantiate…

  • Bali & Java

    A great storage unit story

    Q:   The storage unit I got these masks from was appraised at $30,000-50,000. I did not buy the unit for that amount They did except my offer. The unit contained more than masks. Also Art, Paintings, Books, Jewelry, Ect. Apparently the man that had the collection passed away, was a Librarian for 40 years. Never married, traveled the world. went to some tribes personally, and liked the signatures too.  Kathleen, 910 A:  Kathleen sent pics of a number of masks found in the treasure trove. All of them are quite interesting. Lucky her! This could be one of several male characters in the famous Topeng dance drama of Bali. Wonderful…

  • Bali & Java

    Sometimes repairs are a good idea

    Q:  I have a very large wood carved mask. It is believed to come from Singapore.  It is a face painted red with black and gold. The face has a third eye on the forehead.  The approximate size of the mask is 24″ L, 18″ W. If you have an address I can send pictures to I would do so.  Charissa, 877 A:  This is a Buddhist-style mask that was made in Bali, probably for export or sale to tourists.

  • Bali & Java

    This big Barong is meant to scare

    Q: I am trying to gather as much material on the masks I own….for my children. I never bothered to write down how much they cost, where I got them and when. Wish I was more diligent. The photos are of a large wood carved mask. Do not know anything about it. Was bought at a indoor flea market. Any thoughts? Mickey, 856 A: Barong masks are used in village ceremonies held in rural Bali and Java. These large, heavy masks must be held with the aid of two handles protruding from the rear. The mouth can be moved up and down. This one is of a boar, but there…

  • Bali & Java

    Comedy character from Java

    Q: “I will always answer your email.” Quote from you, Bob. Well, I haven’t heard word one from you. I first submitted my mask about a year ago, I think. When I hadn’t heard anything for several months and reviewed your site and did not see it, I resubmitted my photos. Still no word. I’m still very interested in any information you might give me. Let me try this again. Joanne, 853 A: Joanne, thank you for being so patient with me. I hope I can deserve it.