Recently Michael Esson contacted me regarding his interest in masks with the faces of skulls. He lives in the area of Sidney, Australia, however he has collected Calavera (skull) masks from far away places such as Mexico and the Himalayas. His inquiry led me to review posts about Calavera masks that had appeared in my blog, whereupon I realized that there were these masks from my collection that I had intended to include, but never did. You will have seen those masks in three recent posts, as I attempted to correct these omissions. Today I am pleased to put up photos of some of Michael’s skull masks from Mexico. As you will see, some of them came to him without much information. Fortunately a few had better documentation, and I will begin with those.
This wonderful mask came with an old tag- “Danza de las Tres Potencias (three powers), Guerrero.” El Sueño, the title painted across the forehead, might be translated as “a dream or vision,” in this instance possibly “your worst nightmare.”
This mask has such a presence.
Today we will look at the last of my overlooked skull masks. I purchased this one from Spencer Throckmorton in December, 1995, in Manhattan. Written in ink on the back are the words—Luvianos, Estado de Mexico. Luvianos is the name of a town located in a rural area that is about 130 miles Southwest of Mexico City.
I don’t know whether this mask originally had a gap in the teeth. Perhaps the gap was created by a dancer, to accommodate a cigarette or to enhance ventilation.
Last week I showed four Calavera (skull) masks from the Mexican State of Guerrero that I had intended to post about four years earlier, but I forgot. This week I am examining five Xantolo or Carnaval masks from Hidalgo and Veracruz that appear to have skull faces. Once again I meant to include them in a related series of posts, but forgot. At least I have a good excuse this time, having put up 17 posts about various styles of Xantolo (13) and related Juanegro (4) masks in the period from September 21, 2015 to January 11, 2016.
As was the case with last week’s foursome, these skull masks are anything but forgettable. The first is from Tolima, Veracruz. I bought it from René Bustamante in 2006. He called it Doña Muerte (Madam Death) and said it had been danced in Carnaval (Carnival/ Mardi Gras).
A cross on a mask like this may have been applied as a message to God, to the effect that the wearer is a Christian, although he is portraying an essentially malevolent underworld figure.