Brígido Valenzuela

Today we will examine the masks of another interesting Mayo master carver, Brígido Valenzuela of Guayparín, Sonora. In Jim Griffith’s Masters Thesis of 1967 he showed a photograph taken in 1965 of a Pascola mask by Brígado Valenzuela (809-34, figure 15); “This was his first attempt at mask making,” said Griffith, but he didn’t indicate its age. Here is a link to a photo of that mask on the Arizona State Museum Website.

In June, 1988 I purchased an anonymous Pascola Mask from Robin and Barbara Cleaver. When I compared it to another in a friend’s collection, I learned the name of the carver—Brígido Valenzuela. I liked this mask a lot, but I gave it up in a trade for another important mask. Here is an old (and harshly lit) flash photo of that mask.

For comparison, here is a photo of a near duplicate from my friend’s collection. I photographed this mask, and one that comes later, in 2011, when they had moved to the collection of Jerry Collings.

This is an example of a design that Brígido used for a number of essentially duplicate masks. I have seen at least four like this, with the upper half of the face painted white and the lower part black.

The rim design is very simple, but creates the impression of a star, so that the mask seems to portray a planetary being.

The forehead cross on Brígido’s masks always looks like this one—a Maltese cross design that is recessed, carved into the wood.

This mask is 7½ inches tall, 6 inches wide, and 2½ inches deep.

This mask has a heavily stained back. The mouth is highly characteristic of this carver, with carved lines delineating the teeth that are visible on the front and the back. Both the mask that was traded away and the mask identified as Brígido’s first also had these teeth showing through to the back.

I purchased the next mask just several months after my first encounter with this carver’s masks, in November 1988. The two seemed like a pair to me, and were so obviously by the same hand. Later, when I traded away the first, I kept this one.

This mask has that same rim design.

The forehead cross is also the same.

This mask is 7¾ inches tall, 6½ inches wide, and 3 inches deep.

The back of this mask has the same shape as the last, and we see again these teeth that are visible on the front and the back.

Here is the second mask that I photographed when it was in the collection of Jerry Collings. All three have the same forehead cross and the same rim design, but this one has a different mouth.

Brígido’s masks have many hair bundles, but he didn’t connect the brows and the beard to make a circle of tufts.

The rim design and the forehead cross are typical of this carver.

This mask is 8½ inches tall, 5½ inches wide, and 3 inches deep.

Brígido’s backs all look the same— a smoothly carved oval bowl.

Next week we will look at a trio of masks by someone I think of as the Floral Borders Carver.

Bryan Stevens













Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *