• Guatemala

    Old cowboy mask from Guatemala

    Q:  Fredrico sent scans of five different Guatemalan masks. Perhaps he wanted them appraised. If he wishes, we can give him an estimate.  1812 A:  Guatemalans all over their little country have practiced masquerade for many hundreds of years… even to this day. Different characters are portrayed in several popular dances. You can tell who they are by skin color, hair color, whether they have hair on their forehead, face, cheeks, chin, etc. They represent men, women, children, rich, poor, bad, good and much more. Guatemalan masks are a favorite with collectors. You can see why on this piece.

  • Misc

    Anubis, God of Embalming

    Anubis was a jackal-headed deity who presided over the embalming process and accompanied dead kings in the afterworld. When kings were being judged by Osiris, Anubis placed their hearts on one side of a scale and a feather (representing Maat) on the other. Anubis is the son of Osiris and Nephthys. Despite being one of the most ancient and “one of the most frequently depicted and mentioned gods” in the Egyptian pantheon, Anubis played almost no role in Egyptian myths. I believe this helmet mask is carved stone or ceramic and several thousand years old. It would have been fit over the head of a mummified corpse and used as a death mask.  I also…

  • Misc

    Masks as contemporary art and sculpture

    Woodcarver Sherilyn Tharp expresses her history of drawing, woodworking and carving experience with this carved mask. Tharp takes a traditional carved form and uses a wide variety of techniques sometimes in unusual and nontraditional ways to articulate her own vision. Her masks are carved from a wide variety of woods and often embellished with scraps and found objects such as nails or thorns.  The hair of a mask might be scrap from some other project such as basket making materials or fabric scraps. Some of the masks are carved from wood collected from tree cutters that save especially beautiful and unusual logs for her. It is not uncommon for fine…

  • Oceania

    Uncontacted tribes are disappearing

    Q:  The family member who gifted this was unsure if he bought it in PNG or perhaps Australia. Even if just a tourist item, I would love to know any information you could share, country, are they masks or shields, did the snake and waterfowl represent anything?  Robert, 1807 A:  We don’t often see masks like this any more. It has been made by a tribesman in a remote part of the Sepic River area of Papua New Guinea. I can tell it is one of his first masks for trading with white men. His choice of colors, designs and workmanship are a little off. Also, he did not attempt…

  • Africa

    Masquerade during the pandemic

    I found this beautiful photo on Google with the following copy: African men and women wearing protective face masks decorated in brightly colored acrylic yarn are the subject of a new collaboration between Pierre Le Riche, who created the masks in Cape Town, and photographer Nonzuzo Gxekwa, who photographed them in Johannesburg. Entitled The Mask Project, the series is being added to the exhibition at THK Gallery, Cape Town, which continues until 29 August. Cases of Covid-19 in South Africa have been increasing by more than 10,000 per day, with the total fast approaching 500,000. The artists say the models were photographed bare-skinned to emphasize our myriad vulnerabilities during the pandemic. ‘I do…

  • India & Himalayas

    Finding valuable masks is hard.

    Q:  I saw this at an antique store in Iowa. I’m curious, is it a valuable find?  Ashley, 1806 A:  It’s difficult for collectors as well as antique dealers to estimate the value of masks. The label on the side of this one says “tribal mask from the Philippines.” Actually, it’s from the Middle Highlands of Nepal in the Himalayas. That’s a bad start, but you managed to contact me. Now we can deal with age and authenticity. It would have been helpful if you had also sent scans of the side and rear views. Fortunately, your photo is hi-res, well lit and focused… and I have some knowledge of…

  • Native America

    Eskimo skin & fur masks

    Q:  A friend of mine said she acquired this mask in the 80’s in Alaska, but didn’t know much else about it.  Rick, 1805 A:  I answered him:  For at least 100 years Eskimo women have been making these skin and fur masks…  occasionally for ceremony, but mostly they are sold to tourists for about 10 to 20 dollars. I thought about it later. These masks, which are widely available and reasonably priced, are the primary source of income for many elderly Eskimo women. Why not buy one for your house or some as Christmas gifts. The Artic people are under-privileged and can use your support. I hope this nice…

  • Mexico

    Red Moor mask, E. Central Mexico

    Though faded and dirty, this colorful red Moor mask is a classic. It could be over a 100 years old, or a very well made replica.  Moor masks can also be painted gray, brown or black. The Dance of the Moors and Christians is an important celebration in the states of Veracruz, Hidalgo, Talaxcala and Puebla. The dance arose from the teachings of missionaries as part of an effort to instill respect for and fear of the Spaniards in the indigenous peoples, and to convince them that the victory of Christianity over other faiths—by violence whenever necessary—was inevitable.

  • Mexico

    Catrin mask from Tlaxcala, Mexico

    Tlaxcala is a small state close to the center of Mexico where they have many carnivals with masked dancer called Catrins. The characters portrayed can be male or female, any age or any race. They are also of high quality and often sell to visiting tourists for a lot of money. This black boy mask has been dance a lot. A mush beer gets drunk at the carnivals, which may explain the damage. Newer ones can be magnificence works of art. One of the great things about Mexican masks is that you can find high art and primitive, low art. Better yet, there are all kinds of animals, monsters, gods,…