264. The Mask of a Shaman

Mezcala, West Coast of Mexico,
700 BC–AD 300 
Size: 19 cm high
Serpentine

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If you care to look into the dark complexity of Central America, look at this Mask. It expresses the combination of beauty and cruelty of the Guerrero culture. While its message might appear very different from benign Christianity, the Grand Inquisitor must have looked similar to those he was redirecting back to Jesus. But here there is no false pretence to piety, and the look of this Mask is not something encountered in European art, where even devils appear benign by comparison. Instead of the sentimentality that so often accompanies depictions of ‘spirituality’ in the West, here is the undisguised expression of the forbidding power of the shamanic tradition. The filaments criss-crossing his dark skin even suggest a power surge through his inner circuitry.

Provenance: Throckmorton Fine Art, New York

An Examination Report by Frank Preusser & Associates, undertaken in 2015, is available.