Incised Mask

Modern-day Mexico, Olmec Culture, c. 1200–400 B.C.

Serpentine or jadeite

Gift of Dr. Robert L. Drapkin and Chitranee Drapkin


This mask, a grave deposit, is a masterful demonstration of naturalistic modeling. The sensitively carved features—drilled almond-shaped eyes with incised upper lids; straight, narrow nose with finely articulated and drilled nostrils; and the parted full lips outlined with an incised line—all suggest that this is a portrait. If it is a portrait it would be a precocious example of the genre in world art. The surface is adorned with incised motifs thought to have cosmological significance.

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