Masque Blanc 31253

West Nepal

Wood, pigment

19th Century or earlier

13 in/33 cm
Ex Collections Hultburg, Templeton, Zaman
Exhibited: Facing the Gods, SITES Smithsonian, late 1980s


One of the most iconic of all Nepal masks, the present offering is a classic example of a "white face type" distinguished by a kaolin clay pigment, that scholar/collector Marc Petit terms, "masques blancs." Another feature shared in common is a projectile arising from the top of the head. Some have interpreted this as a mini ancestor figure, while others see a phaliform fertility reference. However, the most likely explanation is that it is there in reference to custom of  the local men of West Nepal to wear their hair up in a top knot.