What can you tell me about my head?
January 26, 2013 2:48 PM   Subscribe

My partner's Grandma recently passed away, and my partner kept this brass head that she owned as a memento, because he'd always been drawn to it as a kid. Can you tell us anything about it? Pics inside!

He knows it is at least as old as him (31 years); it is quite heavy to hold. There is a hole in the bottom of it that has a rough piece of wood or cork in it, but it could be poked out with a finger. It has no manufacturer's marks of any kind. We believe it is made of brass. My partner's Grandma was British, though she'd been in Canada for the last several decades, if that info is of any use.

Was it ever part of something larger, or has it always just been a slightly creepy brass head all on its own? Is it the likeness of an actual person? We are not under the impression that it has any monetary value; it is purely a sentimental, albeit weird, keepsake for us.

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posted by just_ducky to Grab Bag (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know what this is but based on the size and the open top of the head it appears to have held something, a candle holder or pens perhaps?
posted by MikeMc at 3:11 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Incense burner?

Do a google image search for "brass head incense burner", "small brass trinket", "brass trinkets". You'll find an array of items that, in some cases, it is difficult to figure out why someone would make it, or buy it. My suspicion is that it falls in that class of item and may be difficult to track down.
posted by HuronBob at 3:14 PM on January 26, 2013

My Pappy had a brass head thingy kind of like that. (His looked more like a devil face.) It had a glass insert. It was an inkwell, but he kept paperclips in it.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 3:38 PM on January 26, 2013

It looks like an incense burner to me. Probably once had a top, like this one.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:41 PM on January 26, 2013

Although mon-ma-torn makes me think maybe the Etsy piece is actually an inkwell; this suggests maybe so.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:44 PM on January 26, 2013

Thanks for the ideas so far, though I imagine HuronBob is right that we'll never really know what it is for sure. The thing that confuses us the most is the hole in the bottom, with the cork stopper in it. We can't tell if the cork has always been there or not, but it is loose enough to remove. Having a hole in the bottom would be strange for an incense burner, no? (I know nothing about incense burners!)
posted by just_ducky at 3:46 PM on January 26, 2013

How tall is it?
How wide, say from the tip of the nose to the back of the head?
Does that hole in the bottom go through to meet the hole in the top --- i.e., does the hole go all the way through?

If the hole DOES go all the way through, that lets out anything that would need to be watertight, like a flower vase, unless it originally had a (glass?) liner. I'm inclined to rule out incense burner, for the same reasons, plus an incense burner would probably also have had some sort of preforated lid. Pencil holder, maybe, like part of some desk set? Something about it suggests to me that it's possibly a souvenier from Southeast Asia or around India......

Considering what we can see of the head's quality --- look at those very-obvious cast marks on each side, for instance --- I think you're right about it being of sentimental value only.
posted by easily confused at 3:46 PM on January 26, 2013

How about the end of a walking cane, or part of a lamp? It looks like it's made to be around some kind of core, with maybe a wider part coming out of the top.
posted by amtho at 3:50 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

To answer easily confused's questions: it is a little over 3 inches tall (8 cm), and about the same width (3 inches) from tip of nose to back of head. And yes, the hole does go all the way through. It probably weighs about 2 pounds. I'll stop threadsitting now!
posted by just_ducky at 4:10 PM on January 26, 2013

I also immediately thought that it looked like a (Budai?) incense burner. But unless it was originally attached to a body base (the hole used to attach it with a pin of some kind), it seems too small for that.

A finial of some kind, perhaps, for a candlestick or lamp maybe.
posted by gemmy at 4:55 PM on January 26, 2013

Okay, this is all guesswork, but here goes: To be useful, if it WAS 'useful', it probably had some sort of liner --- and if it WASN'T made to be useful, why the large hole in the top of the head?!? Surely even as rough as this is, that hole in the top wasn't *required* by the manufacturing process. And just from your pictures, that top hole looks reasonably even and circular, which would let a (glass?) liner fit in there.

Inkwell - inkwells usually have pretty small openings, plus would need a lid to keep the ink from drying out.
Candle holder, pencil holder or flower vase - the head appears too small and too tippy for a tall-ish item.
Cane head or lamp finial - either would have the hole in the bottom, but not the top. Plus, 3 inches is pretty over-sized for either of these.
Incense - incense usually comes in one of two forms, small loose bits or sticks. If you tried to burn incense sticks in something like this, as it burned down (because of that open hole in the bottom) you'd risk burning down your building. (Can't plug the hole with cork while burning something: cork burns too.) Not good! Burning loose incense would need that long-lost liner, plus this would mean there's also a missing lid, probably preforated but styled to look like the top of the head.
posted by easily confused at 2:56 AM on January 27, 2013

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