I had not planned on doing yet another post about the masks of Jesús Rodríguez Muñoz. However, as I looked over the photos I had taken of the masks in the collection of Barney Burns and Mahina Drees, I realized that I had provided an orientation to this artist, but so much that was brilliant remained to be shared. Here are a few more of his masks that are too good to let pass! Or at least these are masks that were probably carved by Jesús, but if not by him then they were carved by other members of the Rodríguez family. It is so ironic that although Barney and Mahina Burns obtained most of their masks from the wives of these carvers, the masks were often mislabeled, frequently said to be by one brother when they appear to be by another, or attributed to someone else entirely. Tom Kolaz and I would never have had the courage to challenge such insider information, were we not so familiar with some of these carvers that we could easily see the extent of the mislabeling, and this emboldened us to rename as the evidence permitted. However, as I will continue to demonstrate over the next few weeks, the absence of reliable insider information forced us to make arbitrary assumptions, so I am offering these tentative re-attributions in a spirit of humility. The bottom line is this—I am going to show you masks that are so wonderful that the respective carvers deserve to be recognized.
This first mask was labeled as the work of Jesús, and I agree, because it has the sort of forehead cross that Jesús often used on those occasions when he put a cross on one of his to be danced masks, and it has his typical conical shape. Barney and Mahina obtained this mask in 2003 after it had been used for about five years (B/M 127).
I admire the wild expression on this mask. I also like the unusual two-layered rim design—a line of small triangles within another line of much larger ones. The long curving triangles under the eyes imitate those of Preciliano Rodríguez Cupis, the father of Jesús.
The forehead cross looks like a flower, or maybe an airplane propeller (see Butterfly mask by Jesús, 9/14/2016, for a similar cross).
From below, one can see that the double rim design continues under the chin. One sees these jagged teeth frequently on masks by Jesús.
The back design is typical of Jesús and his brother Rodrigo. There is obvious wear.
The next mask was also collected by Barney and Mahina as the work of Jesús , but it could be by another Rodríguez, such as his uncle, Conrado Rodríguez Cupis; for example it has Conrado’s eye design—with plain openings that are pointed on both ends (B/M 306/*). This is a magnificent mask.
I especially like the triangles within the triangles under the eyes. Also note the many hair bundles; I have never seen this many on any other Yaqui mask (originally there were about 37 bundles around the chin, although some are no longer present, along with a more normal 17 across the brow)!
This is one of those mean looking canine masks.
The forehead cross is small and traditional, however it is less worn than other white areas on the mask, so I think it was added later. As you know by now, Jesús was prone to omit the forehead cross, making it necessary for the dancer to add one if a cross was desired. His uncle Conrado also seems to have omitted the forehead cross sometimes.
There is no sign of a chin cross.
The back is dark with wear. It was said to have been danced for six years, but one wonders whether it might have been danced for much longer. It has the oval shape that I associate with Conrado and his brother Preciliano. There is a huge ventilation opening.
This next goat faced mask was collected by Barney and Mahina in 2006 (B/M 379/371). At that time the carver was unidentified. However, this is definitely in the style of Jesús, for example it looks very similar to the green fish or iguana mask in an earlier post (9/12/2016).
This generic rim design was frequently used by the Rodríguez carvers.
There is no forehead cross, which is a common omission on the dance masks of Jesús.
Nor is there any sign of a chin cross.
This style of carved teeth is typical of Jesús.
The back shows moderate staining from use.
The next mask in this post was said to be the work of Lalo Gutiérrez, a carver unknown to me, and not identified with any other mask in the Burns collection (B/M 383/375). The eyes and the red areas around the eyes suggest the Rodríguez family style and the mask has the sharp nasal ridge typical of Jesús. It lacks a forehead cross, an omission which is also suggestive of that artist. Therefore I am attributing this mask to Jesús Rodríguez Muñoz.
The nose has a distinctive shape.
There is no forehead cross.
One sees Rodríguez features. Note the rim design across the top of the mask—vvvVVvvv.
This is such a handsome mask. Look at the carefully carved nostrils.
The back is heavily worn.
The next mask is clearly by the same hand, but of smaller proportions as if it was carved for a child. When purchased by Barney and Mahina, the carver was unknown (B/M 844/838). So I am attributing it to Jesús as well. The painted decoration is spare.
In my view the mask was initially provided with very little decoration, and then the rim design was later added by a dancer.
There is no forehead cross, which is normal for a mask by Jesús. The nose is exactly the same as that on the previous mask.
There are relief carved teeth, a difference from the previous mask. However, these resemble the jagged teeth on other masks by Jesús in today’s post.
This mask is 6½inches tall, 5 inches wide, and 3 inches in depth. In contrast a typical adult mask by a Rodríguez carver is taller, measuring about 8 inches tall, 5¼ inches wide, and 3¼ inches deep.
The back is unusually oval for a Yaqui mask, apparently because it was carved for a child’s shorter face.
By now you must have noticed that I am building up a model for the identification of masks by Jesús by extension—proceeding from established and familiar features to other masks that share such design details and yet introduce us to others.
I found yet another mask with nearly the same shape in the Burns collection (B/M197/*). Ironically, this one was attributed to Rodrigo Rodríguez Muñoz, the brother of Jesús. In some cases it is very difficult to tell their work apart, but you may have noted one typical difference—Rodrigo preferred to install a highly formal forehead cross on his masks, while Jesús apparently felt no such compulsion and he frequently omitted this feature.
There is no sign of a forehead cross on this mask. On comparing the paint color on the ears with that of the rim and under the eyes, it seems obvious that the white splotches over red designs were a later addition. Without those additions, the mask would look more typical of the Rodríguez masks.
But one can’t miss the nearly identical shape of this mask when compared to the other two. They all could have been carved by the same hand.
And again we find a face that presents a conical shape.
The worn back of this mask also has a shape that is like the backs of other masks by Jesús, although the length of the ears makes it look slightly different.
The last three masks of this post share an unusual feature, a ridge or crest on the top. As I will further explain, I am linking these three masks on the basis of a hunch by Tom Kolaz. The first of these came labeled as a mask carved by Jesús Rodríguez Muñoz, it has a Rodríguez look, and it lacks a forehead cross (B/M 216/213). Please note the forehead crest.
There are curving relief carved horns and this mask has Jesús’ usual mask shape.
There is not only no forehead cross, but also no place for one.
The back shows some staining from use, and is compatible with the attribution to Jesús,
The next goat mask was said to have been carved by Justo Jusacamea of Las Guacamitas (B/M 393/385). This is another carver who is unknown to me, and with no other mask attributed to him in the Burns collection. On inspection, this is another mask with Rodríguez family features—including the rim design, the ears that resemble another mask in this post (B/M 197) and that lonely pair of teeth on the lower jaw. The horns on this mask strongly remind me of those on the mask just above.
The design and modeling of this mask are very fine, definitely up to the Rodríguez family standards. This is a wonderful mask.
One could see this sort of face from Rodrigo or Jesús. It resembles the face on the pig mask by Jesús that you saw several weeks ago. Here it is to refresh your memory.
A top view of the goat faced mask comes next.
The forehead crest, which is so stylized and abstract, is perhaps the most interesting feature. One also notes the lack of a forehead cross.
The back looks only a little different from the one on the last mask. It has a great deal more staining from use.
The following mask, which came to Barney and Mahina without a carver’s name (B/M 390/382), reminded Tom Kolaz of the “Lalo Gutiérrez” Goat mask, causing him to wonder if it was by the same carver. Tom has a good eye, so I paid attention to this idea, looked around in the Barney and Mahina collection, and assembled this threesome. The decoration makes one think of the usual Rodríguez style. This is another mask of triangular or conical form, like so many other masks by Jesús, and it too has a triangular crest, so I am entertaining the idea that this is another mask by that carver. It is a terrific mask. This photo is slightly blurred, for which I apologize; I don’t have another that provides an overall view from the front.
The extended tongue is carved in relief.
The goat horns are depicted in an extremely abstract form, as if they were airplane wings. In passing, I often tilt the side of a mask upwards with a block of wood so that I don’t need to stoop so low to obtain a side view. In this case I overlooked the fact that the block was visible in the photo. In my post of 8/29/16 I included a photo of the garage studio where I shot this photo, and there you can see a pile of wooden blocks used for this purpose. You will see a few more of these exposed blocks, now and then, in my Burns collection photos.
The cross of four diamonds is a known Rodríguez variation (September 5, 2016), although usually presented in a broader form. The elevated area on the forehead is highly stylized and unusual.
“Kiss me you fool” (Theda Bara, 1915). The shape of the frames around the eyes is most typical for masks by Preciliano Rodríguez Cupis.
This back design is well within the usual style for Jesús. The mask was found in “Casa Blanco.”
In the next few weeks we will continue to sort out and admire Rodríguez masks as we examine some that may have been carved by Preciliano Rodríguez Cupis, the father of Rodrigo and Jesús, or by Conrado Rodríguez Cupis, their uncle (and the brother of Preciliano).