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Late 19th C. Nepalese Copper & Paint Dharmapala Mask

Southeast Asia, Nepal, Himalayan, ca. late 19th to early 20th century CE. Presenting a striking, dramatic visage, this Dharmapala mask was made from hammered copper with openwork eyes, nostrils, and mouth, its surface beautifully painted with rich black and red pigments. Of particular note are the five faces/skulls adorning the crown. A fabric covered interior border attached with cord through perforations made this piece more comfortable to wear. Nice signs of usage. Custom wooden display stand included. Size: 10" H (25.4 cm); 16" H (40.6 cm) on included custom stand.

A classic depiction of Dharmapala, central to the Tibetan Buddhist mask tradition. Dharmapala are "protectors of the faith" ritualistically used in the monastery's Cham ceremonies depicting the triumph of Buddhism over "demons" that once ruled Tibet. The Cham dances were performed to commemorate the introduction of Buddhism by Padmasambhava in the 8th century CE and its victory over the animist Bon religion. This finely modeled and painted copper mask portrays the fearsome deity with an open mouth so that the wearer could reveal his own 'terrifying' teeth and perhaps tongue.

Complementing this are the mask's delineated high cheekbones, flaring nostrils, bulging eyes, and a third eye in his forehead. As a likeness of Dharmapala, it is crowned with a diadem of five eerily grinning skulls. The fearsome visage was created to protect the faith from demonic forces of the former religion as well as eliminate any obstacle that stood in the way of the path toward Enlightenment.

Compare to similar examples in Chazot, Eric, Himalayas, Art & Shamans, Paris 2009.

Condition: Areas of surface wear with paint losses as shown. Age wear to cloth border on verso.

Provenance: private New York, New York, USA collection; ex-collection of the late Peter Arnovick, San Francisco, California, USA

All items legal to buy/sell under U.S. Statute covering cultural patrimony Code 2600, CHAPTER 14, and are guaranteed to be as described or your money back.

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