Mask of a Friar
German (late 18th – early 19th century)
19th century, Hardwood (walnut or boxwood) and ivory
This hardwood mask with grotesque features depicts the face of a hooded friar. The eyes, tongue, and teeth are carved in ivory, further emphasising the caricature and softening the expression that would otherwise seem almost demonic. Caricature masks of this type were often placed as decorative elements on buildings, fountains, fireplaces, corbels, and other architectural features from the Renaissance onwards. The use of hardwood, such as boxwood or walnut, combined with the use of ivory, suggests that it may have been made by a Germanic artist: Simon Troger (1694-1768), for example, was an artist of Austrian origin who was well known in Germany for this type of work. He was self-taught and produced wood and ivory sculptures of sacred and profane subjects that showed the influence of Giambologna and Bernini.