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.


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