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Well known Guatemalan mask

Tecu Uman

Tecu Uman

Q:  I inherited this mask from my grandfather who was an art dealer and collector.  He collected African masks, but I doubt this is one.  He was born in Canada in the late 19th century, but came to settle in Riverside California.  When he married, he and his family lived in Beverly Hills where he had a gallery.  He constantly flew back and forth to Paris collecting and selling lithographs and anything Picasso.  I have no idea where he acquired this mask and how he came to give it me…but I’ve kept it all these years and am curious of its origin.  Is it Guatemalian?  808

A: It is Guatemalan, and it represents Tecu Uman, who was a famous Indian chief who fought the Conquistadores valiantly in the Battle of Quetzaltenango in 1524. As he confronted Pedro de Alvarado, the mounted Spanish commander, he attacked and wounded the horse, believing they were one person. This gave Alvarado a chance to retaliate, and he killed Tecu Uman. During the Dance of the Conquest, Tecún Umán dies at three o’clock, linking him to Jesus on the cross. The Quetzal bird (which is the national symbol of Guatemala) stands in his wounds and gets its chest red from the hero’s blood. This is an older example of a mask probably made for sale to tourists rather than actual use.  B+

Categories:   Guatemala

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