• Mexico,  Unknown

    Don Juan the maskmaker

    Mexico lost a great artist when Juan Horta Castillo, perhaps Mexico’s finest mask maker in recent years, passed away of a heart attack in 2006. He was one of the principal and most sought-after carvers from the famed mask-making village of Tocuaro, Michoacán. He won the national mask contest several times and traveled extensively demonstrating his skills. His sons now carry on his tradition and have made a name for themselves in the art of mask making. The decorative mask we have here is actually piece of fine art sculpture. Don Juan made it for collectors, not to be used in a dance. As I said recently in the blog…

  • Mexico

    Mexican mask with interesting history

    Q:  I believe this mask I have is merely decorative in value. Some of the Mexican masks that were collected at the same time as this one have references to a book written by Donald Cordry.  I have 9 of them, 8 of which are double-headed.  Eric, 1411 A:  Cordry is famous to Mexican mask collectors. He wrote an important book, Mexican Masks– published in 1980. It was read by thousands all over the world, and for a few years was the bible for students and collectors. When he died at his vacation home in Guerrero, his collection was given to an art museum in the Southwest. Later we find…

  • Mexico

    Mexican mask collection

    Here is a medium-sized collection of masks from all over Mexico. There are 94 of them representing 15 states out of 31. Most are carved wood, and some are papier mache, leather, metal and fired clay. Few of them have much age. Old masks are rare, because rough usage and climate take their toll. Only one is not painted, which means it was made strictly for tourists. You won’t see collections like this in museums. It includes authentic (used in culture), plus new ones that could be used and decoratives for tourists and export. Curators and serious collectors don’t like to see this a mix like this. I disagree. Many…

  • Mexico

    Entertaining Mexican mask by Candelario

    One of the most creative (and busy) mask makers is Herminio Candelario who lives in Suchitlan, Colima. This mask could be a coyote or a dog. Animals are used in the dance of the Morenos in which they are scaring away the Roman Centurions who are guarding Christ’s tomb. Don Herminio has been improving village dances for many years with his always-different carvings. What doesn’t get used for that purpose is sold to tourists. Collectors call the leftovers “decoratives,” which they disdain. Not me. Unused decoratives are in beautiful condition and I often add them to my Mexican mask collection. Do you like this as much as an old, used…

  • Mexico

    Authenticity is always a challenge

    This red and green wooden mask comes from Zitlala, Guerrero, Mexico. The mask belongs to the Ruth Lechuga collection, so we know it is authentic. It was probably made by the Nahua people. These kind of Mexican masks often have insects or small animals on them. They are very entertaining. The second one also looks like an old Nahua mask, but there seems to be a hint of darkened varnish coating it. Many of these masks have been made for tourists who like the old. I can’t be sure. What do you think?

  • Mexico

    Terrific Mexican mask

    Q:  Attached are three pictures of a mask I recently purchased at a country auction in Massachusetts.  It is made of wood, with paint and some sort of old repair.  Any information would be very much appreciated!  Nick, 1373 A:  Nick, you have made my day. Your photography is excellent. Most people who buy a mask at a local auction or thrift store don’t get something of this high value. It’s a very old Moor mask, but I can’t identify the state or ethnic group. Who has ever seen tiny, little round eyes underneath big eye holes. I also love the startling look of the face on this enemy of…

  • Mexico

    Caiman mask from Guererro, Mexico

    Q:  I would like to purchase this wooden mask, but I’m unaware of its origins. The owner has a large collection of masks, and couldn’t remember where he picked this one up. He suggested it was either Indonesian or Japanese, though it looks more like an African mask to me. The mask seems to have been made for a child.  Paul, 1371 A: This cool little Mexican decorative (tourist mask) is something I would be glad to add my collection, I think, but I wish your photos were better. You can learn more about the famous caiman mask by referring to Mexican Masks by Donald Cordry on page 200. Unlike…

  • Mexico

    Diablo from Oaxaca, Mexico

    I could not resist sharing this photo of an old Oaxacan mask with you. It has so much character, despite it’s rough appearance. Devils can’t be nastier than this one! Located on the edge of the Pacific in southern Mexico, the state is rich with many kinds of wonderful masks. Part of the reason is there are many ethnic groups (Mixtec, Zapotec, Chatino, Negro, Huave, Chontal) in the area. More info is needed. What part of Oaxaca does it come from? A  

  • Mexico

    Rare Cora mask from Mexico

    Q:  I bought this mask in Mexico while living there. Story I was told is It is used in a celebration where it is worn and then thrown in a bonfire. It is made out of paper and clay and has a small skull with horns on the forehead of this unspecified animal. I forgot which state of Mexico it comes from. I mostly collect abstract masks from Mexico, regardless of their market value.  Marco, 1359 A:  Your bonfire story is true. The Cora people are supposed to destroy there papier mache masks after the Holy Week ceremonies in the state of Nayarit of northern Mexico. Because of this tribe’s…

  • Mexico

    Info on 2334 masks

    Left of me on the header of our home page is this cute little goat mask from Guerrero. In the Chivo Dance there are two lines of dancing goats. They wear masks with horns, a headdress, or both. The masks are very colorful, like toys for children. Mexican masks are usually meant to be entertaining. This mask will now be number 1334 in the site’s archives, which are listed as “categories” on the right of each mask page. In our book, Masks of the World, by Ibold and Yohn, there are photos and descriptions of 990 masks. So when you use our book and the website, you have access to…