Carved from green jade with naturalistic human features with an open mouth, large eyes, and holes drilled into the mask’s ears, this stone mask could have been worn by an elite individual. Since jade was considered more valuable than gold or other precious metals, it is likely that this mask would have been used during ritual ceremonies or possibly as a death mask to accompany the body of a deceased person who wielded spiritual and political power.
The Olmec culture, arising near the Gulf of Mexico and north of the Yucatan Peninsula, is often seen as the “mother civilization” of Mesoamerica. The Rio Pesquero site is one of the most researched and excavated archaeological spaces associated with the Olmec. Though the numerous masks found there share stylistic elements with this mask, this mask was not necessarily created at that location. It may have been inspired by these other works or even originated in Rio Pesquero and been brought elsewhere, via extensive Olmec trade networks.
[Throckmorton Fine Art, New York, NY];
The Jan T. and Marica Vilcek Collection, 2000-2010;
Gift to The Vilcek Foundation, 2010;