The collection

Mask Pendant

Mexico or northern Central America; Maya, 200-600 AD
Wood, jade, resin, shell, mother-of-pearl, spondylus shell, obsidian, red pigment
H. 12 cm; W. 8.4 cm; D. 6.8 cm

This mask is a very rare survival of an ancient wood artefact from the Mayan homeland, where the warm and humid climate prevents the archaeological preservation of most organic materials. The headdress of this mask takes the form of the upper head and jaw of a feline, with staring eyes and bared teeth. Jaguars were revered as symbols of royalty and often appear in royal costuming, suggesting that this mask pendant is likely to have belonged to a Maya ruler and to have been worn on ceremonial occasions.

Formerly in the Guennol Collection, the mask has been shown in exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1960-1970 and in 1970-71, and was on view at the Brooklyn Museum, New York, from 1973 to 2012.