Funerary mask

Teotihuacan
Classic period
A.D. 1–550


Object Place: Teotihuacán vicinity, Mexico, Central Highlands

Dimensions

7.2 x 10.5 cm (2 13/16 x 4 1/8 x 1 3/4 in.)

Accession Number

1988.1224

Medium or Technique

Earthenware: red-orange and white paint

Not On View

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Earthenware

This mask renders a human face in typical Teotihuacan style. The slightly opened mouth reveals the upper teeth, each tooth filed to a point. This mask-like face likely was tied onto a mummy bundle, the wrapping in cloth of the flexed body of the deceased being a prominant Teotihuacan burial custom. The lack of burials at Teotihuacan and later renderings of Central Mexico burial practices suggest that funerary bundles were often cremated.


Life-sized stone masks, a hallmark of Teotihuacan art, were likely attached to the bundled remains of important individuals. Smaller pottery masks may have come from incense burners or adorned effigy bundles containing cremated remains. Mortuary bundles perhaps served as oracles through which revered ancestors imparted knowledge to their living descendants, the mask being the conduit between the deceased and the living.

Provenance

Between about 1974 and 1981, probably purchased in Guatemala by John B. Fulling (b. 1924 – d. 2005), The Art Collectors of November, Inc., Pompano Beach, FL; May 20, 1987, sold by John B. Fulling to Landon T. Clay, Boston; 1988, year-end gift of Landon Clay to the MFA. (Accession Date: January 25, 1989)

NOTE: This is one in a group of Maya artifacts (MFA accession nos. 1988.1169 – 1988.1299) known as the “November Collection” after John Fulling’s company, the Art Collectors of November, Inc. John Fulling sold this group of objects to MFA donor Landon Clay in 1987, and they were given to the Museum the following year.
Evidence suggests that John Fulling built the November Collection from sources in Guatemala between 1974 and 1981. Only a portion of what he acquired during this time came to the MFA in 1988. It is not possible to determine precisely which objects were acquired when or from whom.

Credit Line

Gift of Landon T. Clay