Onyx marble; H. 7 1/2 in. (19.1 cm)
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1969 (1978.412.198)
There was no tradition of portraiture at the great central Mexico city of Teotihuacan, but masks depicting the human face are abundant in the style associated with the site. With its geometrically rendered horizontal brow, triangular nose, and oval mouth and eyes, this mask depicts the idealized facial type that seems to function as a symbol, similar to other standardized motifs present in the art of Teotihuacan. The depressions of the eyes and the mouth suggest that this mask, like many of its counterparts, might have originally possessed inlaid shell or stone for the depiction of eyes and teeth. Although the mask is carved out of onyx marble, a precious stone, in its original state it may have been painted like other masks of this type. Perforations at the sides suggest that it was intended to be attached to another object, but given the weight of the stone and the lack of holes for the eyes and mouth, these masks were probably not worn by living people. Instead, they may have been attached to sculptures of human figures or mounted on mummy or deity bundles.