• India & Himalayas

    Old but still colorful Indian mask

    Q:  I bought this mask in San Francisco, California in the late 1990s for somewhere around $100 or so..I don’t remember exactly. It seemed old at the time, and I remember the merchant saying something about it being some kind of “ceremonial” mask but I forgot all that he said. Size is about person-size. Material seems to be some kind of plant material that was pressed or glued together, but I don’t know exactly. It isn’t solid wood but definitely a natural plant-based material of some sort.  Bruce, 1194 A:  “India is the world’s largest democracy and the second most populous nation in the world. It is a land that…

  • India & Himalayas

    Old, used mask from Nepal

    Q:  I took photos of these (quickly because it wasn’t allowed!) masks in a tiny museum in Bhaktapur, Nepal.  Amy, 1192 A:  The character is Indrayani, one of eight dancers in a performance of Bhairabs, the oldest and most famous drama in the Kathmandu Valley. Bhaktapur is where it started. In the nearby big city of Kathmandu you can buy lots of papier mache masks, but they won’t look anything like this one. I would guess it was made about 75 years ago. Please enlarge this hi-res scan so you can see the details. I don’t think this high quality work is done anymore. Amy– thanks for taking the risk!…

  • India & Himalayas

    Sri Balaram mask from India

    Sharon Lowen, a scholar and performer of Indian traditional dances, sent me this photo of Sri Balaram, a character from one of the Chhau dances in Purulia, and the brother of Krishna. It is an unused performance mask, 13″ x 10 1/2″ x 7″, collected in 1974 from a mask-maker at the Paus Mela Fair in Santineketan, Bengal. Its eyes are not opened yet because dancers do this themselves. Sharon will be in the United States for the first time in 5 years and have two days to disperse (or bring back to India) folk art collected in the 70’s and 80’s. If you have any friends in LA who…

  • India & Himalayas

    Nice mask from Sri Lanka

    Q: I bought this in a sale in the 1970’s and still don’t know where it came from or how old it might be. Since then it has been in my attic. Do you have any ideas?  Andrew, 1185 A:  This is a large Sri Lankan mask probably representing the demon, Maura Raksha. Do a little research on Google and you to learn more. I my opinion, it is a very decorative piece. It is probably 50-75 years old. Though it was never used, it is a great carving. Try getting the color restored… if it doesn’t cost too much. Enjoy this nice piece of art.  

  • India & Himalayas

    Indian mystery mask

    Q:  Interested in the origin of this mask and any information that would help. It is a heavy dark wood carving weighing 13 lbs, 23 x 12 x 7 1/2 inch.  Barry,1178 A: It’s always nice to know when, where and how you got the mask. In your case it may not be a mask because it is so large and heavy, and it is missing eye holes and any way of holding it to the head. Maybe it is an architectural detail. Then why is the rear so carefully scooped out and stained black? I would sure like to know more about this beautifully aged piece of sculpture. Hopefully…

  • India & Himalayas

    7 authentic masks from India

    Q:  We have a set of 7 old masks from India of papier mache. It would be great to know a little more about the origin, time and function. They are from 1920-30. Among the group there are different characters of various sizes. We sent the photograph of one of them. Probably all 7 come from the same dance. Thanks for your help beforehand.   Laia, 1149 A:  This is a splendid example of an authentic, used mask. Your photos are excellent. I love Indian masks so much I put a large picture of one on the cover of my book, Masks of the World. So I’m going to break the…

  • India & Himalayas

    Old Himalayan mask

    A large photo of this mask is shown on page 36 of Masks of the World by Ibold and Yohn. The caption reads:  Nepal monkey mask – Terai region, Nepal and South Himalayas, 14 inches, painted wood.  Represents a monkey or possibly another animal. It is an excellent carving with great aesthetic appeal and rather thin walls. Folk art carvings from the Terai are seldom sculpted this gracefully. I believe there is a treacherous monkey character somewhere in the Ramayama, that very long, ancient epic poem written in the 11th century. The old, used masks of the Himalayas are always interesting. Unfortunately, we still see a great deal of tourist…

  • India & Himalayas

    Sri Lankan mystery demon

    Q:  Right now the mask is hung up on a wall and very heavy. I have attached some photos. The back story is that it belonged to my wife’s grandmother who dabbled in antiques and traveled a lot. We have this mask and a Maui kava kava sculpture. The family remembers these items as kids, so it is at least 30-40 years old. I could not find any marks inside, or find any other mask via the Web that looks close to this. I think it’s origin may be Tibetan. Since she passed I started collecting other masks, but nothing of this caliber.  Jeremiah, 1110 A:  This Sinhalese (the largest…

  • India & Himalayas

    Himalayan skull masks

    I was just looking at this entertaining skull mask. Skulls are a subject for masquerade in cultures all over the world. This one is obviously from the Himalayan region. You can always recognize this because of the way the nose, cheek bones and many teeth are sculpted. It is made of papier mache which is light-weight and cheap. Most of the skull masks made for use in dance or ceremony nowadays utilize that material. However, this particular one was antiqued for sale to the tourist trade. I’m also posting two other skull masks from page 38 of my book, Masks of the World, that were carefully carved out of wood. …

  • India & Himalayas

    Multiple Mahakalas for decor

    Q:  The masks were purchased from the daughter of a collector who died. The only information she gave me is that the mother traveled the world and always wore a mask. The little information I got on the Internet for the of mask 9 heads is that the Mahakala is a sacred entity of Tibetan Buddhism. But also I found many other names for that entity. Perhaps it was produced in Tibet and made of wood. The size of it is about 40cm tall and 30cm wide. I have a few more of this collection I acquired and still do not have enough information, so I will attach them to…