Art/ Collection/ Art Object


19th–early 20th century
Republic of Timor-Leste
Probably Timor-Leste (East Timor)
Wood, fiber, paint, lime, and hair
H. 9 x W. 5 11/16 in. (22.9 x 14.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Discovery Communications Inc. Gift and Rogers Fund, 2000
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 355
The island of Timor gave rise to a distinctive tradition (or traditions) of dance masks whose precise origins and significance remain uncertain. What information exists suggests that many of the masks originated in Timor-Leste (East Timor). Portraying both male and female ancestors, they were worn by men during dances and other ceremonies, including celebrations of victory in war.
When in use, the masks were typically painted and adorned with strips of hide or bristles representing facial hair and worn with a headdress or a hood that covered the head, further concealing the dancer's identity. The present mask has no eye holes, and the wearer would have looked out through the mouth. Some masks were made from perishable materials, but wood examples such as this deeply patinated work were preserved and reused many times.
Private collection, Europe; [Bruce Frank Beads & Fine Ethnographic Art, New York, until 2000]

Kjellgren, Eric. Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007, 143, 244-5.

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