ITEM 12169

Mask of Houshang

Monpa or Sherdukpen people, Himalayas
19th Century or earlier
Wood, pigment
9.5 in / 24 cm

Ex collections: Lawrence Hultberg; Pace Gallery; Victor Teicher

This superb Monpa mask from Arunachal Pradesh or Bhutan would have been worn in the Ache Lhamo / Ajilhamu dance drama. The origin of the Houshang character may date back to the Great Debate over which form of Buddhism was to become the official court patronized religion in 8th century Tibet: the Tantric version from the Indian subcontinent espoused the saint Padmasambhava, also called Guru Rimpoche, or that of the Chinese monk Houshang, who lost the debate. The finely carved features of this mask are visually akin to those of Olmec masks from ancient Mexico.