Q: I was curious about this mask. It is made from wood and measures 10 1/2″. This was part of my dad’s collection, he traveled the world and was an antique dealer, unfortunately he passed away and I have recently been going through his stuff. The mask is in rough condition it has cracked and is missing an ear. Any information would be much appreciated. Caroline 519
A: Certainly an old and used mask from a small Mexican village. Otherwise,
I can’t pin it down to a state. Someone help! If properly identified this would be very collectible. One more thought– first-time Mexican mask makers sometimes have difficulty handling the viewing-hole problem. This mask is a good example of that. A+
This is a Tlacololero mask, from Guerrero, Mexico. I base this attribution on the form-
unusually tall and then the vision slits need to be lower than expected, under the eyes. In this case the eyes appear to be made with reverse painted glass, a nice touch. I have two Tlacololero masks of this form that were collected in the field by Jaled Muyaes and Estela Ogazon, probably back in the 70s or earlier. In Mexican Masks (Cordry 1980) one can see a set of six decorative versions of this style (page 173) which are even larger (35-38 cm). It is my belief that these “color block” Tlacololero masks are all decorative. In Changing Faces: Mexican Masks in Transition (Jacobson and Fritz 1985, page 52) one can see another example of the color block type-
“Decorative. Attributed to Tlacacolleros Dance…Guerrero. 35 x 22.5 cm [14″].”
Changing Faces was the first book in English to expose the problem of decorative masks. It is out of print but well worth finding on the internet.
In contrast Caroline’s mask seems real and great.
In all due respect, I do not think this is a tlacololero mask. I’ve never seen a tlacololero mask with inserted teeth (as this mask seems to have) nor with an attached beard (there appear to be remnants of wire brad holes on the chin which likely held a strap which secured a horse-hair or fiber beard). Tlacololero masks are typically made en masse for a group and idiosyncratic features such as the bottle glass eyes seems incongruent.
I would be very interested in seeing the inside/backside of the mask, as I think it might hold clues to its origin.
I would be interested in talking to Caroline about perhaps purchasing her mask.