Home > Art > Olmec Mask Fragment with Engraved Headband
About the Object
The Olmec mask seen here was damaged and only a fragment remains. The intricate work carved from pale green stone shows distinct and realistic human features, while the drill holes may indicate that it was worn during ritual ceremonies believed to provide the wearer spiritual and political authority. Alternatively, it may have been a burial object accompanying an elite individual into the afterlife.
The Olmec, often referred to as the “mother culture” of Mesoamerica, developed their distinctive style of art and prospered in areas such as the contemporary Mexican states of Veracruz and Tabasco from around 1400–400 BCE. This type of stone is often found in Guatemala, revealing wide trade links and the great interchange of ideas, knowledge, goods, and styles. Through their iconography, rituals, beliefs, and architectural styles, the Olmec greatly influenced later cultures throughout Mesoamerica and beyond, including the Maya, Teotihuacan, and Aztecs (Mexica).
Mr. [Everett] Rassiga Collection, New York, 1934-1993;
[Fine Art of Ancient Lands (now Throckmorton Fine Art), New York, NY];
The Jan T. and Marica Vilcek Collection, 1993-2010;
Gift to The Vilcek Foundation, 2010;
Iman Issa receives the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Fine Arts for exploring, through works of various media, difficult philosophical questions, such as the individual’s relationship to places, figures, and events that are collectively familiar, or the difference between experience and recognition.
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