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Plaque, Plaster, Portrait Mask, Bearded Man, by Sal Terracina, 20th Century


Sal Terracina (c. 1901-1995)
Bearded Man Mask Plaque
American: Mid 20th Century
Hand-painted cast plaster with wire eyelashes
16 x 8.6 x 6 inches

Head of a blond, bearded man with an animated expression of deep concern on his face, cast in plaster and hand painted, with wire eyelashes attached. It was made by Sal Terracina, who had a mask making studio in New York City and made them for his own performances and as set decorations for the theater. it is unsigned, but purchased by the prior owner from a large estate collection of Terracina’s works in about 2004, and is stylistically identifiable as Terracina’s work.

Product description continues below.


Sal Terracina was a photographer and mask maker, based in New York City. Terracina grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, son of Italian immigrants before embarking on a colorful career that began as a nightclub, burlesque, and cruise ship performer with an act combining piano playing and mind reading as “Salterra” or “the Great Saltarr.” Photographs, projected as slides, became part of his act, and over his long life he photographed a wide range of subcultures: Italian-American gangsters, carnival performers, gay men, and celebrities, leaving behind 80,000 negatives, most shot with a 4 x 5 camera.

In the 1930s Terracina started making masks as props for his own performances, and eventually as set decorations in Broadway productions, including Tobacco Road and Uncle Tom’s Cabin. According to his nephew, Keith Terracina, who manages his estate and a website,, Sal made the masks from his own recipe, which have made them extremely durable. In 1948, he joined a circus called the World of Mirth as a performer, and documented the performers over the next two years. Returning to New York in 1951, he opened a photo studio in Manhattan and specialized in photographing actors, including the young Gene Hackman, James Earl Jones, and Ed Asner. The Seafarers International Union hired him as its official photographer, giving him an opportunity to see the world and photograph exotic locations in Africa, Borneo and Latin America. After his return, he frequently also spent time in Key West, where his brother owned a bar, and made a large series of portraits of the gay male community there.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall expected handling and wear. Some minor restorations of abrasions to paint.


Hart, Russell. “The Amazing Terracina.” American Photo. Jul.-Aug. 2004, pp. 33-35, 37. (26 June 2019). Online at Google Books: (26 June 2019).

Sal & Keith’s Images. (26 June 2019).