About the Object
With naturalistic large eyes, an aquiline nose, and mouth open as if frozen in speech, this face mask displays the remarkable ability of Teotihuacan artists to fashion stone using techniques developed and refined over centuries. It was created from mottled green Guerrero jade, which was long associated with fertility and the cycle of life and death. This material was revered and considered to be sacred throughout Mesoamerica. However, due to the weight of the object, this mask was probably not worn during rituals. Rather, it appears likely that it would have covered the face of an elite individual in death by attaching a string through the drilled holes in the work’s ears.
From about 100 BCE until 200 CE, the city of Teotihuacan endured across the Valley of Mexico. It eventually became one of the largest urban settlements in the pre-colonial Americas with a population of about 200,000 inhabitants, who helped to construct its magnificent architecture including some of the largest pyramids on Earth. Such structures at Teotihuacan were built over caves perceived to be entrances to the underworld, while funeral masks such as this example were sometimes adorned with metal (probably iron-pyrite) inlaid eyes, teeth, and earrings. Through the creation of such works, the beliefs and authority of elites as well as the permanence of Teotihuacan society were displayed, reinforced, and reproduced.
[Throckmorton Fine Art, New York, NY];
The Jan T. and Marica Vilcek Collection, 2001-2010;
Gift to The Vilcek Foundation, 2010;