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Creator Nationality: North American; Central American; Mesoamerican; Olmec
Creator Name-CRT: Olmec
Title: Mask
View: Principal view
Creation Start Date: 0
Creation End Date: 0
Creation Date: 10th?6th century B.C.
Creation Place: Mexico
Object Type: Costume and Jewelry
Materials and Techniques: Jadeite
Dimensions: H. 6 3/4 in. (17.1 cm)

Depicting a typical Olmec face with slanted, almond-shaped eyes and a toothless, slightly downturned mouth, this mask is rendered with simplicity and elegance. Its harmonious proportions are indicative of the sophistication attained by Olmec sculptors. The smooth, highly polished planes of cheek, forehead, and chin, and the almost fleshy quality of the nose and parted lips belie the incredible hardness of the jadeite cobble from which the mask was made. The face itself is neither human nor supernatural but, rather, an idealized type that incorporates otherworldly aspects?such as the mouth, with its reference to the so-called were-jaguar, a powerful mythic being with human and jaguar traits.

Masks of this size in stone have not been excavated in archaeological sites and it is difficult to determine their function. Lacking holes for eyes and nose, it could not have been worn over a living face, but there are attachment holes along the edges by means of which it might have been used as a costume element or adhered as a face to a mummy bundle. There is a polished, circular depression on the back of the mask.

AMICA Contributor: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Owner Location: New York, New York
ID Number: 1977.187.33
Credit Line: Bequest of Alice K. Bache, 1977
Copyright: Copyright ? 2002 The Metropolitan Museum of Art. All rights reserved.
AMICA ID: MMA_.1977.187.33
AMICA Library Year: 2002
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright (c) 2002 The Metropolitan Museum of Art. All Rights Reserved

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