Decorative or authentic

Wanted for ID loss
Wanted for ID loss

Q:  Here again I submit a mask that I have not been able to identify. Made of light weight, balsa like, wood. It measures 7.7″ in height x 7″ in width and 3″ in depth. I’ll be grateful for any input on the origin of this mask.  Louis, 823

A:  The Mask Man is stumped again. I just can’t remember where I might have seen something like this before. The front is fresh and may have been repainted. The rear could be showing real usage. I hope some people will write in with suggestions.



  • Nate

    I’d say this is authentic and ethnographic….
    The back side has too much attention to the fit/comfort of wearing to strictly be used for wall-art. 6-7 years ago I watched a guy sell 5-6 masks from his deceased brother’s beloved collection.. nearly all the masks were identical masks in shape, light wood, dry-aged wood… and the key factor here, thickness. I retrospect.. knowing what I know now… it was a big missed opportunity for me… my mind keeps wavering between northern mexico and southern Arizona. I am fairly certain there is a nomadic tribe in S. Arizona that still makes and culturally uses these masks with deep Mayan/Mexican roots. If my assumptions are all right, then, I’d classify this one as rather rare, since its the only similar one I have seen since then. The colors and design get my attention however, there is something there that reminds of Jamaica or the Bermudas (the green?)… Guatemala is not too far away from either island, once in a while once will see masks from that region that are carved as thickly. I’d give the mask “influenced” by the gulf islands, but ultimately this is either Mexican or as I mentioned the yet to be identified tribe in AZ. If I had to guess at a region of Mexico, I’d say Tabasco – the region makes the same all-silver masks with the over-sized, long, straight, nose that I remember from the supposed AZ collection.

  • Bob Ibold

    Nate’s comments present an exciting hypothesis. Let’s hope we can get some reaction. Of course, disagreement is always welcome.

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