Masked Men of the Theater Acting in "Topéing," Java, Indonesia


This photograph of a theatrical performance in the Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia) is from the Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection at the Library of Congress. Frank G. Carpenter (1855–1924) was an American writer of books on travel and world geography, whose works helped to popularize cultural anthropology and geography in the United States in the early years of the 20th century. Consisting of photographs taken and gathered by Carpenter and his daughter Frances (1890–1972) to illustrate his writings, the collection includes an estimated 16,800 photographs and 7,000 glass and film negatives. This photograph appeared in Java and the East Indies; Java, Sumatra, Celebes, the Moluccas, New Guinea, Borneo, and the Malay peninsula (1923), part of Carpenter's World Travels series, with the caption: “Except when performing before their sovereign, Javanese actors wear masks. The colour of the mask shows whether the character is representing an angel or devil, hero or villain. Travelling troupes are eagerly welcomed in every town and village.”

Last updated: July 2, 2015