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Early 20th C. Indonesian Painted Wood Festival Mask

Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Central Java, ca. early 20th century CE. A carved wood Indonesian mask depicting a character from the Indonesian dance drama known as Topeng, a spectacular performance in which one or more dancers don masks and present ancient tales, usually about ancient or mythical heroes or kings. This example presents a bold visage comprised of a deep gold complexion, bulging eyes above eye slits, sinuous brows, a protruding pointy nose, an open mouth revealing gold painted teeth, and a theatrical mustache and goatee - the dramatic face surmounted by an impressive headband/crown incised with florets and leafy tendrils and painted in red, green, and gold paint against his black coiffure. A mesmerizing example! Size: 5.5" W x 6.875" H (14 cm x 17.5 cm)

The Topeng dances originated in the 17th century and have traditionally been most prevalent in Java and Bali. This said, the dance is also performed in other Indonesian islands. The word "topeng" translates as mask in Indonesian. Topeng performances begin with a sequence of dancing, non-speaking masked characters that may or may not be directly related to the story being told. The use of masks is believed to have its root in the cult of the ancestors which regarded dancers as sacred interpreters of the gods.

Condition: Expected surface wear and pigment/gilding loss commensurate with age. Perforation at top center for attachment. Loss to area to right of one eye. One nostril hole blocked. Nice patina throughout.

Provenance: ex-Adeon Gallery, Chicago, Illinois, USA acquired prior to 1970

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