• Europe

    Bulgarian kukeri masks

    In a practice dating back millennia, Bulgaria’s kukeri dancers don dramatic costumes to dispel evil and invite good. The ritual is a public one, profoundly ancient, full of spectacle and metaphor. Around early winter or midwinter, groups of kukeri (pronounced KOO-kuh-ree) don elaborate costumes—complete with fantastical masks and belts of massive metal bells—and accompany musicians throughout the village, dancing rhythmically to drive away evil and invite good. They are “multipurpose” rituals: The bells clanging and the costumes shocking faces divert the evil eye, but the mummers’ dancing path throughout the village also invoke the fertility of people, animals, and agriculture. Kukeri rituals have also served as coming-of-age ceremonies for young…

  • Europe

    Masks we don’t see often

    Q:  I’m trying to find out who made a particular mask. It was a cubist mask featured in Eyes Wide Shut, and I recently found a nearly identical mask linked from your site on Pinterest (though the link on your site is now dead). The image of the mask from Eyes Wide Shut is attached below.  David, 1438 A:  This mask can be found on page 107 of Masks of the World by Ibold and Yohn. It was purchased from a costume shop in France or Italy about 20 years ago. It is 10 inches high and made of very strong papier mache so it can be worn many times.…

  • Europe

    Sardegna carnival mask from Italy

    Q:  I bought those 2 masks 10 years ago in Mamoiada, Sardegna. These are the 2 characters of this traditional carnival, the Mamuthones and the Issohadores. The masks are new. The procession itself is almost hypnotic, it is worth the trip, unfortunately in the winter, end January till early February. I just sent you these masks, because I did not see them in your book, I recently bought on Amazon. Jean, 1418   A:  Only the black mask is shown, not the brown one. I try to limit the blog to just one mask. Carnivals in the island of Sardinia are a bit different from those in other parts of Italy…

  • Europe

    Rare chimpanzee mask from the Tyrol

    Q:  I’ve had this mask for 10 years, and paid approx. $80 at an online auction. I’ts a Fasnacht mask from the Tyrol region of Austria. I liked the expressive carving and the hinged jaw. Not sure of it’s age, but I thought I would share it with you since it’s unusual, and I haven’t seen any similar masks online.  Dan, 1400 A:  This carved wood carnival mask is obviously from the Tyrol. That means it could be used in Austria, South Germany, Eastern Switzerland or Northern Italy at “Fasnacht” to chase away winter. I can see it mixed in with those crazy Krampus characters. But it is very rare.…

  • Europe

    Ancient Greek theater mask

    Education—  It could be over 2000 years old. Made of fired clay, it was found in pieces but has been repaired. I don’t think we can find any western European masks that are older. Do you enjoy seeing ancient masks?  Read books and visit museums. Careful reproductions can be purchased on the internet for reasonable prices. Identification—  Most of the photos I receive are from people who know very little about masks and need more information. Also, there are collectors and dealers who specialize and occasionally stumble on a mystery mask that is not in their field of expertise. Value—  People want to know how much their new mask is…

  • Europe

    Gschell mask from Germany

      Q: I was wondering how a German mask is made?  Jimmy, 1354 A:  That was a beautiful photo you sent, but a little low in resolution. So the main photo is a female version of yours from the Second Face museum of cultural masks. Here is the beginning of their description. TITLE: Fasnet Gschell Mask COUNTRY: Germany SUBREGION: Rottweil ETHNICITY: Swabian German DESCRIPTION: Gschell Narro MAKER: Helmut Kramer CEREMONY: Fasnet (Carnival) AGE: ca. 1970s-1980s MAIN MATERIAL: wood OTHER MATERIALS: oil paint; horsehair; satin ribbons; mirrors Yours (second mask) is a male version of the same mask. To learn how they are made, do a Google search. Helmut Kramer was…

  • Europe

    Romanian traditional mask

    This Romanian ritualistic mask from Moldova always has an unique appearance of a big beard and long red nose. They’re used over a wide area, from the Banat to Moldavia and from Oltenia to Maramures. The dances are considered the most picturesque events and tourists love them. They are a meaningful component of the folk customs celebrated in villages for the coming of the New Year, funerals, agricultural and hunting rituals.These dances originate from the pre-Christian times when the never ending struggle between good and evil had an impact on everyone. After Dan got his excellent German mask for so little money, I took a look at some other European…

  • Europe

    Witch mask from Germany

    Q:  This isn’t a mystery mask, but I thought it was a nice find for $27. It’s a German Hexe mask, I believe from Offenburg. The mask itself is about 13″H and it has an attached scarf, which drapes over a wire frame that’s attached to the mask.  Dan, 1341 At the beginning of the thirties the first witches appeared in the organized Swabian-Alemannic Fasnet. They were the Offenburg witches, who were officially founded on Epiphany in 1936. Unlike the rather deliberate fool, the witch is a figure with whom one can do a lot. Witches are free, they can climb, can make Radau, build pyramids and annoy the spectators.…

  • Europe

    Tschaggatta mask from Swiss Alps

    Q:  I have had this mask in our family for a long time and recently started to do research on it as the misses no longer can stare at it on the wall.  It seems to be a Swiss Made, LOTSCHENTALER HEIMARBEIT. That is what’s printed on the back.  Seems to match up with some late 19th century masks that were/are worn at a festival in a Swiss Valley.  Any idea as to what era and type of mask this is for sure? Is there any collectible market? Do they have estimated or average values?  Sean, 1319 A:  Called a Tschäggätta, this carved wooden mask of a frightening figure in…

  • Europe,  Misc

    Ntanos Blast Mask

    Lots of us like to wear masks to parties and special occasions. Here’s a line of masks that only cost $6.58 each. You have to buy the material and do the construction yourself. Ntanos furnishes the digital file, PDF and paper pattern. The picture shows my favorite. Go to www.etsy.com for more info about this British creation. Your friends will be impressed with your handiwork.  Bob