26 JAN - 3 FEB | 2019 TOUR & TAXIS | BRUSSELS

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Deletaille Gallery

Portrait Mask of an Olmec ruler

Portrait mask of an Olmec ruler
Oxidised dark green serpentine with light green-beige surface
Olmec, found in Honduras, Central America
Middle Pre-classic period, circa 900-400 BC
H 19 x W 15.5 cm
Olmec masks are important works of art from Mexico that have been found throughout Central America. For the most part they are made from jadeite or serpentine. Totally different from the large ceremonial centre sculptures, these refined smaller ritual objects in precious materials are evidence of a sophisticated and highly organised society. This mask was purportedly found in western Honduras in the late 1960s. This reinforces the idea that these objects might have been considered important trade items or tokens of prestige that were taken outside the Vera-Cruz region where they were most likely created. Nothing evokes more emotion than an Olmec mask. Probably portraits of important dignitaries or rulers, they often have fine incised symbols on the cheeks, forehead and around the mouth, as is the case with this mask. The iconography used was intended to confer symbolic power to the wearer and to reinforce shared beliefs. They remain remarkable items of technical virtuosity and are the material remnants of a glorious civilisation
Provenance: Emile Deletaille before 1970; private collection, Belgium
Literature: ‘Trésors du Nouveau Monde-Schatten uit de Nieuwe Wereld’, Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, Brussels, 1992, ill. n° 76
Exhibition: ‘Trésors du Nouveau Monde-Schatten uit de Nieuwe Wereld’, Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, Brussels, 15 September-27 December 1992

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