Mask of Chief Humming Bird

aaaMystrySolvd-859aaaaMystrySolvd-859baaaMystrySolvd-859cQ:  This Guatemalan mask looks well used, has multiple layers of paint, and a thick rich patina on the backside. It appears to be a rather unusual mask in that it has elongated, cut-outs over both cheeks…certainly not something I’ve ever seen. But I did find a similar character that represents a very important Mayan chief called Huitzizil Tzunum, which means humming bird. This character is carved in a famous Mayan Stella in the Archaeological site of Copán, Honduras.  Nate, 859

A:  First, I must congratulate you on finding and identifying this old Guatemalan-style mask. Our readers should know that one can still find something good on eBay if you devote many hours to the search. Why the slits on the cheeks– I have no idea either. The quality of carving is pretty low, but this unusual piece will be of interest to serious collectors of Guatemalan masks.  A-

One Comment

  • Jean

    This is a beautiful mask.

    About the slits on the cheeks, typical of the area of Rabinal in Baja Verapaz, several hypothesis have been suggested:

    Joel E.Brown reports in his book that it has been said to him locally that the reason was to give a greater vocal projection to the performers, without further historical explanation.

    Jim Pieper evokes a ritual involvement with the dragon in some Rabinal’s rituals, mimickong the the ear slot of the lizard.

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