This early carving depicts the spirit of a mountain deer. The belief in nats, or nature spirits, dates back to the 11th century. Nat simply means ‘lord’, and different nats had dominion over pieces of land, or the people of a village.
This carving is an example of tourist art. It’s based on traditional masks worn for Ramayana performances. However, because of their appeal, decorative carvings of these masks were mass produced from the late 19th century for Western consumers.