Includes paper, paper maché, or cardboard.

TITLE: Bull Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Spain
SUBREGION: Barcelona, Catalonia
ETHNICITY: Catalan
DESCRIPTION: Toro (Bull) Mask
MAKER: Augusto Duch, Barcelona
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 2012
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; ribbons; wire mesh

Carnival is celebrated throughout Catholic Europe with parades and other festivities, often including masqueraders. For centuries, Spaniards venerated the ritual of bullfighting, inherited from Roman gladiator contests, and it is still practiced in parts of Spain. Although several regions, including Catalonia since 2012, has banned it as unnecessary cruelty to animals. Nonetheless, the symbol of the bull survives as part of Spanish culture and tradition. The bull is consequently a popular character in Spanish Carnival due to its association with virility and strength.

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TITLE: Siqlla / Doctorcito
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Peru
SUBREGION: Cusco
ETHNICITY: Quechua; Aymara
DESCRIPTION: Siqlla (Doctorcito, or Little Doctor) Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Paucartambo
CEREMONY: Danza Wayra (Kuwallada)
AGE: 2011
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: plaster; paint; string

The city of Paucartambo, Peru, celebrates the Festival of the Virgin of Carmen (Mamacha Carmen) annually on July 16th. The Festival begins by the carrying of an image of the Virgin Mary through the streets to the church. Among the festivities that follow is the Kuwallada, a festival involving numerous masked characters in elaborate costumes. One component of Kuwallada is the Danza Wayra, also called Danza Siqlla or Siqlla, after the Quechua word for this character. The term wayra is Quechua for “wind,” probably referring to the “hot air” blown by liars; siqlla has no equivalent English word. Technically, these two dances are slight variations of each other, distinguishable by costume differences.  However, both satirize the grasping lawyers (in this context, “doctorcito” refers to a doctor of law, not a medical doctor), judges, and politicians of the town who are arrogant or abusive toward the indigenous population.

The dance is also performed throughout the Cusco region, including in Cusco itself, Pisaq, and Ollantaytambo.  It centers around a trial of an indigenous man (maqta), recited in Quechua and Spanish. The prosecutor leads the dance, followed by a mayor, lawyers, and the maqta. Most of the characters have exaggerated noses and fancy European clothes (except the maqta, who wears traditional Peruvian garb), but the lawyers are distinguished in carrying a bible and a whip.


Click above to watch a short documentary on Corpus Christi in Cusco, Peru.

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TITLE: Lunar New Year Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: China
SUBREGION: Hong Kong
ETHNICITY: Han
DESCRIPTION: Mature Woman “Big Head” Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Lunar New Year
FUNCTION: Celebration; Entertainment
AGE: 1950s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: gesso; paint; cotton straps

The Chinese celebrate the lunar new year with lion dances, parades, and fireworks throughout the country.  Normally, the celebration begins on new year’s eve and lasts 15 days, and it provides an opportunity for entertainment, family reunion, honoring ancestors, and planning for the coming year. In the parade, armies of “big-headed Buddhas” clad in traditional silk costumes (or their modern polyester equivalents) follow the lion dancers.  They cavort for the entertainment of the audience and to bring good fortune in the coming year. Among these masqueraders are old man and old woman characters, such as the one represented by this mask. In modern Hong Kong, this is the largest festival of the year, and includes floats and decorations throughout the city.

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TITLE: Diablo Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Peru
SUBREGION: Cuzco
ETHNICITY: Quechua and Aymara
DESCRIPTION: Diablo (Devil) Helmet Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché; plaster
OTHER MATERIALS: wire mesh; paint

Carnival is the Catholic festival that precedes the fasting season of Lent, a period known as Shrovetide. In Peru, Carnival celebrations typically include parades of masked and costumed characters, marching or dancing to music, and street celebrations, often accompanied by water battles. Costumes portray a mix of Christian and indigenous themes with an emphasis on parody and parable. Common characters include devils, Spaniards, Moors, and angels.

While most modern Peruvian masks are made from tin, or increasingly fiberglass or plastic, this mask is made in the older style of paper maché coated with plaster.


Click above to watch a short documentary on Corpus Christi in Cusco, Peru.

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TITLE: Carnival Fantasy Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Italy
SUBREGION: Venice
ETHNICITY: Italian
DESCRIPTION: Moon Mask
MAKER: Carta Alta, Venice
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: early 2000s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: macrame; paint; rhinestones; ribbon

During Carnival in Venice, masqueraders wear a variety of both classical and novelty masks. This mask falls in the latter category. It is made to resemble the moon and can be worn by masqueraders of either sex. By not covering the whole face, masks such as this one allow the wearer unimpeded speech and the option of eating and drinking without unmasking.

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TITLE: Paper Carnival Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Germany
SUBREGION: N/A
ETHNICITY: German
DESCRIPTION: Character Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: ca. 1920s
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 sophisticated man wearing a monocle, then fashionable.

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TITLE: Diablo Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Mexico State
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Diablo (Devil) Mask
MAKER: Emmanuel Vázquez, Mexico City (1982- )
CEREMONY: Día de los Muertos
AGE: 2017
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; polyester ribbon

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is an annual celebration in Mexico whose origin dates back to the Aztecs. It was originally part of the cult of worship of the goddess Mictecacihuatl held during the summer, but with colonization it was syncretized to coincide with the Catholic holiday Allhallowtide. It is now primarily held on October 31 and November 1.

During Día de los Muertos, Mexican families set up altars (ofrendas) to memorialize departed loved ones and hold night-long vigils at their graves. It is believed that the spirits (fantasmas) visit their families, with the children returning on October 1 and the adults on November 1. The altars contain offerings of the things most enjoyed by the departed, primarily sweets and games for children and mescal, fruits, sweet bread (pan de muerto), and savory foods for adults.  In addition, townspeople in some places, such as Oaxaca, hold costumed parades (comparsas), with such characters as skeletons (calaveras), Aztecs, and devils prominently represented, mixed more recently with Halloween characters taken from U.S. popular culture.

In Mexico City and surrounding areas, the Halloween element of Día de los Muertos dominates. Residents of Mexico City frequently dress in elaborate costumes, sometimes with masks, but more frequently with faces painted like catrins and catrinas (highly decorated, elegant skeletons representing wealthy Spaniards). This mask was hand made by an artisan in Mexico City to be sold for the former purpose.

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TITLE: Volto Carnival Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Italy
SUBREGION: Venice
ETHNICITY: Italian
DESCRIPTION: Volto
MAKER: Carta Alta, Venice
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: early 2000s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: macrame; paint; rhinestones; ribbon

The volto (“face”) is a classic Venetian Carnival mask that covers the entire face for maximum anonymity. The lack of an opening, like the bauta mask, makes it appear more natural but less functional, as the masquerader must remove the mask for eating and drinking, and speaking is obstructed by the lack of a mouth opening.

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TITLE: Lunar New Year Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: China
SUBREGION: Hong Kong
ETHNICITY: Han
DESCRIPTION: Young Girl “Big Head” Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Lunar New Year
FUNCTION: Celebration; Entertainment
AGE: 1950s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: gesso; paint; cotton straps

The Chinese celebrate the lunar new year with lion dances, parades, and fireworks throughout the country.  Normally, the celebration begins on new year’s eve and lasts 15 days, and it provides an opportunity for entertainment, family reunion, honoring ancestors, and planning for the coming year. In the parade, armies of “big-headed Buddhas” clad in traditional silk costumes (or their modern polyester equivalents) follow the lion dancers.  They cavort for the entertainment of the audience and to bring good fortune in the coming year. Among these masqueraders are old man and old woman characters, such as the one represented by this mask. In modern Hong Kong, this is the largest festival of the year, and includes floats and decorations throughout the city.

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TITLE: Muerte Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Mexico State
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Muerte (Death) Mask
MAKER: Juan Bobadilla, Tlalpan, Mexico City
CEREMONY: Danza de los Apaches
AGE: 2016
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Danza de los Apaches, also known as the Danza de los Concheros, is a traditional dance in parts of Mexico State, including Tejupilco, Tonatico, Amatepec, Luvianos and Tlatlaya. The dance involves mostly unmasked characters. The dance celebrates Mexican independence (September 16th), with the dancers in costumes that crudely mimic the dress of Native American peoples, with colorful costumes and painted faces. The notion underlying the the dance is that the indigenous peoples of Mexico won independence from Spain, and therefore the “Apaches” (in some towns called Guaranis) represent the Mexican people. It begins with a parade, after which gachupines or costeños, who represent the Spaniards, raise a Spanish flag.  The Apaches (sometimes accompanied by negros, representing African slaves) carry machetes and dance to traditional music of flutes, drums, and sometimes European instruments such as trumpets and guitars, finally staging mock battles with the Spaniards, until the Apaches drive them away.  As they prevail, the character of death enters, wearing a calavera (skull) mask like this one, to symbolize the defeat of the colonizer.

Apaches may also dance on patron saint days in some towns, such as Villa de Guadalupe, Amecameca, Chalma, and Los Remedios.

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