TITLE: Austrian Perchtenmaske
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Austria
ETHNICITY: Tyrolean
DESCRIPTION: Perchtenmaske (Krampus Mask)
CATALOG ID: EUAT004
MAKER: Markus Lanzl (Graz, 1977- )
CEREMONY: Perchtenlauf
AGE: 2006
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: pigment; goat horns; goat fur

Perchtenlauf is a Tyrolean winter festival equivalent to the old Norse Yule.  In many parts of Austria, southern Germany, Switzerland, and northern Italy, in mid-December the town organizes a parade of Perchten, or demons who represent evil spirits (known in Germany as Krampus).  The Perchten wear frightening horned masks with sharp teeth and long, lolling tongues, typically in a suit of goat skin with loud cowbells attached to their belt.  Their function is to accompanying St. Nicholas, who reward good children with treats and presents, while the Perchten punish bad children by beating them with birch switches or throwing them into wicker baskets on their backs to carry down to Hell for punishment.

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TITLE: Commedia dell’Arte Arlecchino
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Italy
ETHNICITY: Italian
DESCRIPTION: Arlecchino (Harlequin) half mask
CATALOG ID: EUIT001
MAKER: Graziano “Safir” Viale (Lonigo [Vicenza], 1959- )
CEREMONY: Commedia dell’Arte; Carnival
AGE: 2013
MAIN MATERIAL: leather
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; hardware

The Commedia dell’Arte was a form of public entertainment that succeeded the classical Roman theater in Italy.  Like classical theater, Commedia performers wore leather masks to represent stock characters and often performed in amphitheaters to large audiences.  However, the Commedia differed in having only a very basic plot sketch, with most of the lines invented extemporaneously by the actors.  The Commedia‘s ability to stay topical and its frequent resort to vulgar humor, combined with the considerable talent of Italian troupes that traveled throughout Europe, made this form of theater extremely popular throughout the early 17th to late 19th centuries. Masked actors had to compensate for their inability to convey facial emotion through posture, gesture, and vocal nuance.

Arlecchino, known in English as Harlequin, was long a popular stock character of the Commedia. His always wears a black half mask with quizzically arched eyebrows and a wrinkled forehead.  Originally, his costume was a peasant’s shirt and long trousers, both covered with patches to indicate poverty.  It later developed into a stylized, tight-fitting suit decorated with colorful triangles and diamond shapes.  Arlecchino also began carrying a batte, or slapstick, at some point.  The character represents a witty and capricious gentleman’s valet, amorous of the serving maids and sometimes clownishly credulous.

To learn more about Commedia dell’Arte, see Pierre Louis Duchartre, The Italian Comedy (Dover Pubs., 1966).

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TITLE: Old Man Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Moldova
ETHNICITY: Romanian-Moldovan
DESCRIPTION: Bătrânească (Old Man) Mask
CATALOG ID: EUMO001
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Campanesti; Mastile; Carnival
FUNCTION: Agriculture; Celebration; Hunting; Protection/Purification
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: sheep’s wool; cow horns; paint; hardware

In Romanian and Moldovan folk traditions, many kinds of masks are used at planting time and during the celebrations of Lent prior to Christmas, and during Carnival.  Some are used for caroling, while others originate in pre-Christian rituals of appeasing the gods for a rainy spring, bountiful harvest, or successful hunt.  Only men may wear such masks.  This mask represents an old man (Bătrânească) and is a popular Carnival character.

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TITLE: Commedia Plague Doctor
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Italy
ETHNICITY: Italian
DESCRIPTION: Plague Doctor Mask
CATALOG ID: EUIT004
MAKER: Lara Milanova (London, England, 1971- )
CEREMONY: Commedia dell’Arte; Carnival
AGE: 2011
MAIN MATERIAL: leather
OTHER MATERIALS: glass lenses; acrylic paint; brass buckles; brass O-rings

The Commedia dell’Arte was a form of public entertainment that succeeded the classical Roman theater in Italy.  Like classical theater, Commedia performers wore leather masks to represent stock characters and often performed in amphitheaters to large audiences.  However, the Commedia differed in having only a very basic plot sketch, with most of the lines invented extemporaneously by the actors.  The Commedia‘s ability to stay topical and its frequent resort to vulgar humor, combined with the considerable talent of Italian troupes that traveled throughout Europe, made this form of theater extremely popular throughout the early 17th to late 19th centuries. Masked actors had to compensate for their inability to convey facial emotion through posture, gesture, and vocal nuance.

During the period of the Black Death in Europe, doctors visited plague victims to verify whether they have been afflicted and to offer treatment.  Their outfit consisted of a wide brimmed hat to show that the man was a doctor, leather gloves and boots, a body-length linen gown covered in wax, and beaked mask with glass lenses to protect the face.  The beak was stuffed with spices to “purify” the air that the doctor breathed, because it was widely and erroneously believed that the plague was spread through the air.

To learn more about Commedia dell’Arte, see Pierre Louis Duchartre, The Italian Comedy (Dover Pubs., 1966).

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TITLE: Paper Carnival Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Germany
SUBREGION: N/A
ETHNICITY: German
DESCRIPTION: Paper Carnival mask of a man
CATALOG ID: EUDE011
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: ca. 1930s
MAIN MATERIAL: kraft paper
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

During the 1920s and 1930s in Europe, sluggish economies created demand for inexpensive versions of traditional Carnival masks that had previously been made from wood or thick paper maché. Enterprising companies began making disposable masks from cheaper kraft paper, hand painted by the abundant labor available due to high unemployment. This mask originates in Germany and represents a young man.

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TITLE: Fasnet Teufel Mask
TYPE: hood mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Germany
SUBREGION: Swabia
ETHNICITY: Swabian
DESCRIPTION: Teufel (Devil) Mask
CATALOG ID: EUDE006
MAKER: Uwe Thaler (Altensteig, 1964- )
CEREMONY: Fasnet (Carnival)
AGE: 2006
MAIN MATERIAL: cedar wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; lacquer; goat leather and fur; fox tail; LED lights and hardware

In many parts of Swabia and Bavaria, Carnival (usually called Fasnet or Fastnet in this region of Germany) is celebrated with parades of witches, devils, and clowns.  The devil parades are organized by guilds, all members of which wear similar costumes and masks.  Each town has its own guilds. Their purpose is to usher in the spring with joy and laughter and frighten away the winter.

This specific mask was used in Ehningen by the Würmdal-Deifels Guild from 2006 until 2012.

Regrettably, the best texts on Carnival in Bavaria and Swabia are still available in German only: Heinz Wintermantel’s Hoorig, hoorig isch die Katz (Würzburg: Konrad Theiss, 1978) and Dick Eckert’s Die Werdenfelser Fasnacht und ihre Larven (Volk Verlag München, 2015).

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TITLE: Kuker Mask
TYPE: hood mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Bulgaria
ETHNICITY: Bulgarian
DESCRIPTION: Kuker Mask
CATALOG ID: EUBG001
MAKER: Elitsa Ilieva
CEREMONY: Christmas; Ephiphany; Sirni Zagovezni; Survakari; Kukerovden
AGE: 2012
MAIN MATERIAL: cloth
OTHER MATERIALS: sequins; plastic beads; thread

The dance of the kuker (plural, kukeri) is a pre-Christian ritual.  The word kuker comes from the Latin word for hood. In Bulgarian folklore, the kuker is a mythical monster that drive evil spirits away from the village.  Men dance as kukeri wearing suits of goat fur, leather, or cloth; masks of wood, leather, or goat fur; and heavy bronze bells.

During late winter festivals such as Christmas, Epiphany (January 6), or Sirni Zagovezni (the Sunday before Lent), the kukeri dance through the village streets to purify the village and ensure a successful planting season, visiting houses and blessing the inhabitants. The grotesque costumes and loud noise made by the bells are intended to frighten evil spirits away.  The kukeri may also perform in folk plays, such as Survakari and Kukerovden (The Day of the Kukers). In some villages, participation in the Kukerovden play was long considered an initiation ritual that a young man had to complete to qualify for marriage.

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TITLE: Fasching Character Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Germany
SUBREGION: Bavaria
ETHNICITY: Swabian (German)
DESCRIPTION: Bearded Character Mask
CATALOG ID: EUDE003
MAKER: Unknown maker in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
CEREMONY: Fasching (Carnival)
AGE: 1930
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; string

In many parts of Swabia and Bavaria, Carnival (usually called Fasnet or Fastnet in this region of Germany) is celebrated with parades of masked clowns (Narren) and characters lampooning local villager types. The beer-swiller, the gossip, and benign old man and woman, and the fool are all typically represented. This mask probably represents a drunkard, based on the reddish, bulbous nose.

Regrettably, the best text on Carnival in Bavaria and Swabia is still available in German only: Heinz Wintermantel’s Hoorig, hoorig isch die Katz (Würzburg: Konrad Theiss, 1978).

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TITLE: Paper Carnival Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: France
SUBREGION: N/A
ETHNICITY: French
DESCRIPTION: Carnival character mask
CATALOG ID: EUFR001
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: ca. 1930s
MAIN MATERIAL: kraft paper
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; copper wire; human hair

During the 1930s in Europe, sluggish economies created demand for inexpensive versions of traditional Carnival masks that had previously been made from wood or thick paper maché. Enterprising companies began making disposable masks from cheaper kraft paper, hand painted by the abundant labor available due to high unemployment. This mask originates in France and represents a clown-like character. The toothbrush mustache originated in United States around 1900 and spread to Europe, where it remained popular until early 1940s.

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TITLE: Austrian Perchtenmaske
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Austria
ETHNICITY: Tyrolean
DESCRIPTION: Perchtenmaske (Krampus Mask)
CATALOG ID: EUAT002
MAKER: Josef “Sepp” Seidl (Sankt Veit im Pongau, 1975- )
CEREMONY: Perchtenlauf
AGE: 2008
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: Steinbock horns; padded leather; mesh; paint; glass eyes; horse hair; plastic and foam rubber helmet

Perchtenlauf is a Tyrolean winter festival equivalent to the old Norse Yule.  In many parts of Austria, southern Germany, Switzerland, and northern Italy, in mid-December the town organizes a parade of Perchten, or demons who represent evil spirits (known in Germany as Krampus).  The Perchten wear frightening horned masks with sharp teeth and long, lolling tongues, typically in a suit of goat skin with loud cowbells attached to their belt.  Their function is to accompanying St. Nicholas, who reward good children with treats and presents, while the Perchten punish bad children by beating them with birch switches or throwing them into wicker baskets on their backs to carry down to Hell for punishment.

This mask uses the traditional Steinbock horns and was worn in Krampuslaufs in Tyrolean Austria from 2009 until 2015.

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