Mexico

Authentic Mexican devil mask

Q: I’m not sure what we are going to do with the collection yet. We are trying to get them identified and appraised. I’ll look to see if there’s any paperwork on any of them. Jodie, 1703

A: A red devil with horns is one of the most common characters in masquerades all over Mexico. Though quickly made by a carver with limited training, this mask has lots of personality. It has also been danced a number of times in Zampango, Guerrero, and is now about 70 years old.

Usage in culture, rather than for sale to tourists and artificially aged to increase value, this mask is more desirable to collectors. We would call it “authentic” rather than “decorative.”

Masks are used for various traditional dances and ceremonies. Evidence of mask making in the country extends for thousands of years and was a well-established part of ritual life in Mexico when the Spanish arrived. In the early colonial period, evangelists took advantage of native customs of dance and mask to teach the Catholic faith although later, colonial authorities tried to ban both unsuccessfully.

Most traditional masks are made of wood, with others made from leather, wax, cardboard, paper mache and other materials. Common depictions in masks include Europeans (Spanish, French, hacienda owners, etc.), Afro-Mexicans, old men and women, animals, and the fantastic/supernatural, especially the Devil. A

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