• East Asia

    Japanese fox mask with moving jaw

    Q:  I would appreciate you posting this old Japanese  mask of mine. Your viewers can see more on the eBay site by searching for “maskmonger.”  Nate, 1444 A:  Kitsune is the Japanese name for this fox mask. There’s patina attesting to multiple times that this mask was culturally danced. Note the articulating jaw that would move during the performance. Signed by “MOTONAGA” or “GENCHOU”. This mask was made and used at sacred Shinto performances during the Kagura shrine festivals. Given Japans rapidly shrinking population, which is making small towns and their shrines close, it seems all the more likely that this is an actual Shrine mask. The dancer wearing this…

  • Unknown

    Where is this mask from?

    Q:  I am doing some research for a community group on museum objects that are locked away in stores with no information about them. We have located this mask but can not find any information on it.  Tara, 1443 A:  This is a mystery mask. It is labeled “East Africa,” but I doubt if that is where it is from. Though it has a primitive look, this wood carving has been quickly made with steel carving tools and a branding tool. It’s probably made for sale to tourist. The question is “where does it come from?”  If you have any ideas, please make a comment. Let’s help Tara.    …

  • 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.…

  • East Asia

    Why such a distorted Japanese mask?

    The use of masks in Japan started from 10,000 BCE. They are used in plays and rituals, and for Noh theater. Today there are a wide range of characters, ranging from very realistic to extreme exaggerations.  This one is called Hyottoko. He can be used for comic interludes in Noh plays. The inexpensive papier mache version shown here can also be used by street performers and the general public.  In the USA it can show up for Halloween. Hyottoko, is probably the strangest-looking character of Japanese masquerade.  Of course, he is very funny looking and very strange.  But I think he would be disturbing enough to strike fear in somebody…

  • Africa

    Complex African traditional art

    The character represented in this mask, Banda (also called Kumbaruba by some Baga groups), is a complex composite of human and animal forms. The long horizontal headdress is composed of the face of a human being and the jaw of a crocodile, whose angular teeth are visible along the side of the mask. The human face is characterized by Baga scarification marks as well as a woman’s elaborately braided coiffure. The top of the headdress features the horns of an antelope, the body of a serpent, and the tail of a chameleon. Banda headdresses are quite large; this example measures just over four feet in length. Yet despite their unwieldy…

  • Protection

    Collectible protective mask

    After the last post I want to talk more about protective masks. They are an interesting category of mask collecting. Unlike most collectable masks, they have nothing to do with ceremony or having fun. They are meant to keep the wearer from injury. But they also may have a secondary purpose of intimidating opponents. Here are some examples. You can see more protective masks by going to that category. None of them fail to impress the viewer Gas masks are often used by the military to protect soldiers from poisonous gas that the enemy might use against them. This one, like many others, would also be a little scary for…

  • 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.…

  • South America

    Is this a Brazilian mask?

    Q:  I wondered if you might be able to assist with sourcing a 20th Century Kamayura mask? My client was hoping to purchase a mask that looks exactly like the attached which is currently on exhibition in the Montreal Museum. I wondered if you might have any insight as to who might sell these Brazilian masks or if you might know of anyone who would create a custom mask?  Any feedback or help is much appreciated!  Antonia, 1437 A:  I know about the Kamayura Indians who live around the Xingu River in the Amazon region of Brazil. The mask shown here could be from them, but I haven’t seen anything…

  • Mexico

    What kind of mask is this?

    Q:  How much is an appraisal? I have a very large carving of what I believe is an antique Mexican Conquistador with blue glass eyes. I have spent over 5 hours online and haven’t found anything like it. So, time to turn to the experts. Thank you.  Laurie, 1436 A:  I asked her to send me some pictures. She did. The first bearded mask is the one she wants to buy. She also sent pics of other masks in the same collection. That is the second photo which shows 11 antiqued decoratives probably from Guerrero. The mask she wanted looked more like a fake Barbone (bearded guy} or possibly an…

  • Caribbean

    Where does this mask come from?

    It comes from the Yare people of Northern Venezuela, close to the Caribbean sea. They were brought here as slaves and are of African descent, as are almost all Caribbeans. You can see this African influence in their music, dance, costumes and masks. Most Yare masks are made of papier mache and lots of colorful paint. This one is a typical parade mask from the Devils of Yare. In this folkloric festival, devotion is given to the patron saint Saint Francis of Paola, to the Blessed Sacrament and to Jesus Christ. The celebration starts Wednesday with a wake where fulías (a native music style) are played, décimas (native form of…