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Turquoise Mask

Mixtec-Mexica Turquoise Mask

Turquoise Mask, Mixtec-Mexica, wood faced with turquoise, shell and mother-of-pearl, height 24 cms., Museo Nazionale Preistorico ed Etnografico ‘Luigi Pigorini’, Rome.

An anthropomorphic face, adorned with a stepped nose ornament bordered by shell, emerges from a zoomorphic mouth. The gums of both upper and lower jaws are also delineated in fragments of red shell. Sculptures depicting anthropomorphic figures emerging from a serpent’s mouth are common in Mexica art. These often represent Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, and symbolize the god’s life-giving associations and representation as the breath of life. Here, however, the mouth lacks any fangs and the head is not fully depicted, making its attribution more problematic.
The most striking elements in the mask are two intertwined serpents on its forehead, with Spondylus red shell decorations delineating their profiles, flanking the temples with their decorated tails. The heads of both serpents, with inlaid eyes, face towards the back of the mask, framing it as though part of a headdress decoration...


Adapted from ‘Moctezuma: Aztec Ruler’, British Museum Catalogue, 2009, p. 160

Photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore