Home > Art > Postclassic Maya/Early Aztec (Mexica) Mask of Xipe Totec
About the Object
This mask was created from carved stone covered with white stucco along with the original red and blue pigments by the unknown Mayan or early Mexica artist(s). It represents the popular multi-ethnic deity Xipe Totec, which can be translated as “our lord the flayed one.” Here, Xipe Totec wears long floral-shaped earplugs, the flower shapes pointing to ideas of fertility and rebirth while the earplugs themselves were regulated and may reveal a prominent sacrificial victim, whose skin the god is wearing. Xipe is further displayed here with slightly open eyes and mouth, which further display the flaying ritual discussed below.
This representation shows the ritual in which a priest would wear the flayed skin of a sacrificed individual, believed to ensure fertility and rebirth. This emulated the shedding of skin or molting of snakes and other reptiles, birds, insects, and mammals that often occurs before reproduction, and was seen as vital to maintaining political, spiritual, and ecological order in agricultural societies.
[Throckmorton Fine Art, New York, NY];
The Jan T. and Marica Vilcek Collection, 2003-2010;
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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