Wooden mask

Mixtec or Aztec
Postclassic period
A.D. 1100–1521

Object Place: Mexico, Central or Southern Highlands


16.8 x 14.1 x 4.5 cm (6 5/8 x 5 9/16 x 1 3/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Wood with turquoise, black stone, shell, and mother of pearl

On View

Ancient Central America Gallery (Gallery LG32)





Human mask carved from a light weight wood and covered with tiny pieces of turquoise and black stone. The mouth is slightly open, revealing a row of upper teeth made from white shell. The eyes are made of mother-of-pearl, the pupils of which are indicated by circular holes cut through the shell. A small hole drilled through the right temple allowed for tying on the mask (the left edge of the mask does not survive).

Masks imparted identity to bundled funerary remains and to living performers taking the guise of other beings. This rare example of a wooden mask originally was covered with an intricate mosaic of colored stones and of turquoise, imported from northern Mexico or New Mexico.


Collected between 1974 and 1981 by John Fulling, Art Collectors of November, Inc., Florida (and known as the "November Collection"); to Landon T. Clay, Boston, Massachusetts, in 1987; to MFA, December 1988, gift of Landon T. Clay.

Credit Line

Gift of Landon T. Clay