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19th C. Chinese Wooden Yao Priest / Shaman Mask

East Asia, China to northern Thailand, ca. late 19th century CE. A hand-carved wooden Yao priest/shaman mask which has been carved out on the verso for wear. The expressive, brown-painted visage is composed of a bulbous nose, full lips surrounding tab-shaped teeth, puffy cheeks, and recessed eyes with pupils formed from small glass beads suspended on twisted metal wire. The eye brows and goatee are made from tufts of black and auburn horse hair, and piercings through each ear hold a twisted cord for wear. Dozens of deep grooves are carved across the cheeks and forehead and indicate the mask represents someone of advanced age. Yao masks are typically worn or carried during ritual ceremonies and are meant to drive away bad spirits and evil magic. A fine example covered in smooth brown patina. Size: 7.875" W x 13.5" H (20 cm x 34.3 cm).

Condition: Light wear to high-point areas on face and peripheries, with several stable hairline fissures, inactive insect damage, and fading to original pigmentation, otherwise intact and very good. Light earthen deposits and nice patina throughout.

Provenance: ex-private Susan Lerer collection, Los Angeles, California, acquired in the 1970s

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