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Large guerrero stone mask late preclassic, ca. 300-100 b.c.

About the object

The deeply convex face of abstract and powerful form on, the angular projecting mouth with lips sharply cut, long aquiline nose with slightly contoured nostrils, and sharp brow framed by squarely cut coiffure extending towards the long ear flanges; pierced at each temple for suspension; in deep green mottled and veined serpentine with extensive remains of encrustation on the reverse.\nThis mask is one of the most powerful of a very small category of abstract Guerrero stone masks, particularly notable for its synthesis of formal and representational elements. Made in veined serpentine, polished to a glassy finish, the mask is distinctively designed with extremely angled facial planes along both cheeks, and a triangular mouth with the lips shaped into geometric forms. The eyes are defined by the browline (with an absence of delineated sockets) and the face is framed by a squared coiffure line ending at the top of long and narrow rectangular ear flanges.\nThe mouth, in particular, reflects the Olmec style of a raised upper lip and an overall downturned form. The Guerrero region had a significant early Olmec presence evidenced by settlements such as Teopantecuanitlán. Guerrero stone sculpture, especially from the Chontal region, shows the influence and evolution of styles from the Olmec to the Teotihuacan periods.  The abstract aesthetic of ancient cultures, most often noted in African art, has been widely recognized as an important influence in 20th c. Perhaps less studied is the connection between abstract forms of Pre-Columbian art, as exemplified by this Guerrero mask, and Modern art. Matthew Robb refers to the architect Philip Will Jr.’s comments on modern design, “ 'Picasso and the Pre-Columbian relic may be centuries apart in time, [they] co-exist in spirit.' " (Robb:2005:48)\nFor similar masks, see Rubin de la Borbolla (1964:pg. 14, and pl. 118), and Gay and Gay (2002: pl. 169). The first and last of the cited comparisons are more naturalistic masks and have the addition of U-shaped headband elements.


Extensive remains of encrustation on the forehead as visible, and across the reverse. There are 2 main ancient cracks, one across the cheeks horizontally and one extending down from this line to the chin, these are not breaks but are stabilized cracks with some overpaint on the front side. In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.


Height: 7 1/4 in (18.4 cm)


Baltimore, The Walters Art Museum, 2002-2010


Gérald Berjonneau, Emile Deletaille, Jean-Louis Sonnery, Rediscovered Masterpieces of Mesoamerica, Boulogne, 1985, no. 279


Acquired in the 1960's


Property from a New York Private Collection

*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.

*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.