|Copper repoussé mask
South India, 19th century
A copper repoussé mask, perhaps depicting the face of a wrestler or actor. The broad face has almond shaped eyes, large eyelids and pupils. The arched eyebrows, prominent nose and distinctive moustache all contribute to giving the face a strong character.
Masks have several functions in Indian culture, and were used for both religious and entertainment purposes. Although the specific purpose this mask is not clear, it was possibly worn tied to the back of the head of a person, as there are no holes for the eyes. If worn by a wrestler, it probably served to entertain the public, or to confuse the opponent. Alternatively, if the mask were a theatrical one, it would enable the actor to play two roles. Dance dramas performed in southern India, such as the Yakshagana 1, or Kathakali that portray Hindu epics, use masks as props.
1 - Subhashini Aryan, Unknown Masterpieces of Indian Folk & Tribal Art, Gurgaon 2005, page 60