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19th C. Nepalese Painted Wood Festival Mask

Central Asia, Himalayan Region, Nepal, ca. late 19th century CE. A beautiful and expressive festival mask, hand-carved from hard wood, with an elongated visage comprised of openwork eyes, a slender nose with drilled nostrils, and a grinning mouth with bared teeth; the temples are drilled for suspension. Areas of white, red, yellow, and brown pigment are visible across the obverse side, and faint traces of pink pigment surround the lips and mouth. A pair of nails are pierced through the lower cheeks, with one still holding the remnants of a mustache made of hair; a large goatee hangs from the chin in a similar fashion. The verso of the mask is carved out for wear. Custom museum-quality display stand included. Size: 5.75" W x 7.875" H (14.6 cm x 20 cm); 11.75" H (29.8 cm) on included custom stand.

The Himalayan masking tradition is not as well-known as those from Africa or Southeast Asia, and today some of the original information has been lost due to fading oral traditions. Masks like this example relate to indigenous, animist traditions that developed in the harsh, wild environments of the Himalayas, and so they are often representations of local spirits. They were made to be worn in masquerades, glimpsed through light from lamps burning butter as oil.

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

Condition: Loss to portion of top periphery. Small nicks and abrasions to eyes, nose, mouth, and peripheries, with fading to pigmentation, and loss to one side of mustache. Nice earthen deposits and traces of pigmentation throughout.

Provenance: private New York, New York, USA collection; ex-Howard and Catherine Feldman collection, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

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