• Mexico

    Ritual Mask of Mayan King

    Archaeologists digging in Mexico’s Palenque ruins have uncovered the mask believed to represent the 7th-century Mayan ruler K’inich Janaab Pakal, commonly known a Pakal the Great — one of ancient Mexico’s most prolific figures. Having become King at the age of 12, under Pakal the Great’s  68-year-long reign of the ancient city of Palenque. As it prospered he instructed the building of its finest architecture. Palenque was a Mayan city state in southern Mexico dating from about 226 BC to AD 800. It is located near the Usumacinta River in the Mexican state of Chiapas.The newly discovered mask depicts Pakal in his old age at the end of his reign, a perfect rendition to accompany him…

  • Mexico

    Hermit mask from Michoacan

    Q:  Could you please tell me if this mechanical eye mask is from Michoacán or Guatamala? I was told it is used in dance ceremonies. Is it old? Please advise.  Paula, 1420 A:  Paula says she does not collect masks. Yet, the experienced Mask Man reacted exactly the same as she did. That face at first reminded me of Guatemala, then I quickly realized it was a hermit in the Pastorela dance that is celebrated by the Tarascan people of northern Michoacan. It could also be a viejo (old man). Finally I looked at it more carefully and could tell it was old and used.  A Mexican masks can be…

  • 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