Sculpture: Africa, Pacific, Americas

Sculpture: Africa, Pacific, Americas

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 9. Chupícuaro Mask, Late Preclassic, circa 300 - 100 BC.

Property from an American Private Collection

Chupícuaro Mask, Late Preclassic, circa 300 - 100 BC

Lot Closed

December 4, 05:09 PM GMT


70,000 - 90,000 USD

Lot Details


Property from an American Private Collection

Chupícuaro Mask

Late Preclassic, circa 300 - 100 BC

Height: 8 in (20.3 cm)

Hélène Kamer, Paris
Emile Deletaille, Brussels, acquired by the early 1970s
Fine Arts of Ancient Lands, New York
Andy and Von Long, Denver, acquired from the above
The Merrin Gallery, New York, acquired from the above
American Private Collection, acquired from the above in 1989
Anne Dorsingfang-Smets, Art de Mésoamérique - Meso-Amerikaanse Kunst, Brussels, 1976, n.p., cat. no. 13
Richard F. Townsend, ed., Ancient West Mexico: Art and Archaeology of the Unknown Past, Chicago, 1998, p. 288, cat. no. 168
This highly evocative mask is an exceptional example of the very small corpus of Chupícuaro masks, as well as one of the most visually arresting works of the wider – and widely celebrated – Chupícuaro ceramic tradition. Strikingly graphic, the mask is of an oval form that is paralleled by the open eyes and mouth, which are each placed at the center of one of the stepped cross motifs that are so characteristic of the Chupícuaro style. Richard Townsend, discussing Chupícuaro ceramic figures that bear similar patterns to their bodies and faces, notes that these intricate motifs “seem to correspond to body paint applied by Chupícuaro women on ceremonial occasions.” (Richard F. Townsend, ed., Ancient West Mexico: Art and Archaeology of the Unknown Past, Chicago, 1998, p. 116).

The facial features of this mask are delineated with delicacy and refinement; small half-moon ears seem to rise almost imperceptibly from the surface of the mask, their edges carefully painted so as not to interrupt the elegant pattern of motifs across the face. The lips are fine and swell out gently, whilst the nose is aquiline and delicately modeled. The mouth retains several small teeth. Small zig-zag lines appear underneath the mouth and across the bridge of the nose; perhaps indicating voice and breath, these motifs appear to be distinctive to some of the masks; see, for example, the closely related mask illustrated in Gerald Berjonneau, Emile Deletaille, and Jean-Louis Sonnery, Rediscovered Masterpieces of Mesoamerica: Mexico-Guatemala-Honduras, Boulogne, 1985, p. 182, pl. 264.

The Chupícuaro ceramic tradition was well-established and highly sophisticated, and Chupícuaro sites had important trade links “to the great Late Formative urban communities of the Valley of Mexico, such as Cuicuilco and early Teotihuacan […and] Jalisco and the basins and ranges of the plateaus beyond.” (ibid., p. 117).