In the Tibetan Buddhist pantheon Mahakala is a protective deity and his common function is as a protector of Tibetan Buddhism. This wooden hand carved black Mahakala mask shows an enraged deity who protectively wards off negative influences and is worn, along with an elaborate colourful costume, on special occasions in traditional dances. The rich glossy patina was accomplished by liberal coatings of Shellac, a naturally occurring resin that dries to a high-gloss sheen of outstanding properties. (This resin is secreted by the ‘lac bug’, an insect belonging to the same ‘family’ from which cochineal is obtained.) This is one of a pair – the other is ‘Masks Item 8’ – acquired in Kathmandu in the early 1970’s from a Bhutanese couple that brought them with them as ‘family heirlooms’ when they earlier emigrated to Nepal from Bhutan, and has been in a private collection ever since.