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Stunning Chontal Stone Mask w/ Original Pigment

Pre-Columbian, Central Mexico, Guerrero region, Chontal, Late Preclassic period, ca. 300 to 100 BCE. A gorgeous face mask of a broad, square form, hand-carved from a mottled tan-hued stone slab with dark-green inclusions. The minimalist visage features a pair of inset ovoid eyes beneath prominent, heavy brows, bar-shaped ears, an elongated nose, and a grooved mouth. Traces of red-orange pigment are visible around the mouth and ears and give the mask an expressive, personalized presentation. The same pigment is seen within the eyes as well, though thick earthen deposits in the corners suggest they may have at one time been inlaid with other materials like stone or shell. A single hole is biconically drilled through the top of the head for suspension. Custom museum-quality display stand included. Size: 4.75" W x 5.125" H (12.1 cm x 13 cm); 6.875" H (17.5 cm) on included custom stand.

The Guerrero region of modern-day southwestern Mexico was the center of the Mezcala and Chontal stone carving traditions. While Mezcala artists are known for their abstract, geometric style, the Chontal sculptors imbued their artworks with more naturalism. Although their stonework stems from the Preclassic period, ca. 300 to 100 BCE, later Mesoamerican peoples clearly cherished Chontal portable sculptures as heirlooms. Chontal creations have been unearthed in ritual caches at Templo Mayor, the principle temple of the 15th century Aztecs of Tenochtitlan (Mexico City).

What's more, legendary 20th century modernists such as Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Miguel Covarrubias appreciated the minimalist qualities of Chontal art. Covarrubias went so far as to compare it to the Cycladic style of ancient Greece. Scholars believe that such masks as this example were tied to funerary bundles of the noble elite; however, smaller scale masks suggest they may have been attached to clothing.

A stylistically-similar example hammered for $7,170 at Christie's, New York "Important Pre-Columbian Art: A European Private Collection" auction (sale 1537, November 12, 2004, lot 42): https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/a-chontal-stone-mask-late-preclassic-ca-4384419-details.aspx

Condition: Minor nicks to obverse, reverse, and peripheries, fading to original pigmentation, with several small excisions, and minor abrasions, otherwise intact and excellent. Nice earthen deposits and traces of original pigmentation throughout.

Provenance: ex-private Florida, USA collection; ex-private France collection; ex-Heritage Auction "Signature Art of the Americas: American Indian and Pre-Columbian Art" (Dallas, September 16-17, 2011, lot 50337).

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