Masks in ancient Mexico came in all shapes and sizes and ranged from those that clearly depict human faces to those that appear bizarre and/or supernatural. This mask, stylistically associated with the site of Tlatilco in the Basin of Mexico, shows a twisted, simianlike face with simple, serpentine curves for ears, bulging eyesockets with crisply outlined eyelids, and exaggeratedly prominent eyebrows. While the eyes and mouth are pierced, the mask is too small to have covered the entire face. Paired holes at the temples and below the ears suggest that it could have been tied on the lower face or onto a bundle or sculpture, thereby representing a state of transformation.
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Date:12th–9th century BCE
Dimensions:H. 5 1/5 in. (13.2 cm)
Credit Line:The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
[Judith Small Nash Gallery, New York, until 1963]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1963, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1963–1978
Museum of Primitive Art. "Works from the Permanent Collection: Textiles of Ancient Peru/Sculpture of Middle America," May 15, 1963–September 8, 1963.
Museum of Primitive Art. "Masterpieces from the Americas," May 20, 1964–November 11, 1964.
Museum of Primitive Art. "The Jaguar's Children: Pre-Classic Central Mexico," February 17, 1965–May 9, 1965.
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University. "Pre-Columbian Art of Latin America," May 14, 1966–June 24, 1966.
Museum of Primitive Art. "The World of Primitive Art," July 12, 1966–September 11, 1966.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art of Oceania, Africa and the Americas from The Museum of Primitive Art," May 10–August 17, 1969.
Museum of Primitive Art. "Faces," February 14, 1973–September 9, 1973.
American Federation of Arts. "Primitive Art/Masterworks," January 5, 1975–May 15, 1977.
Seattle Art Museum. "Primitive Art/Masterworks," January 5, 1975–February 16, 1975.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "Primitive Art/Masterworks," March 23, 1975–May 4, 1975.
Dallas Museum of Art. "Primitive Art/Masterworks," June 8, 1975–July 20, 1975.
Art Institute of Chicago. "Primitive Art/Masterworks," August 25, 1975–October 10, 1975.
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. "Primitive Art/Masterworks," November 9, 1975–December 21, 1975.
Toledo Museum of Art. "Primitive Art/Masterworks," April 11, 1976–May 25, 1976.
Walker Art Center. "Primitive Art/Masterworks," June 27, 1976–August 8, 1976.
Denver Art Museum. "Primitive Art/Masterworks," September 10, 1976–November 7, 1976.
de Young Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. "Primitive Art/Masterworks," March 12, 1977–May 15, 1977.
Museum of Primitive Art. Masterpieces in the Museum of Primitive Art: Africa, Oceania, North America, Mexico, Central to South America, Peru. Handbook series. New York, NY: Museum of Primitive Art, 1965, no. 80.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 563.
Newton, Douglas. Masterpieces of Primitive Art: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978, p. 86.
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