Preciliano Rodríguez Cupis and Conrado Rodríguez Cupis Part 2

This post will focus on masks that I would attribute to Preciliano Rodríguez Cupis, on the basis of the nose design. Although some were originally said to have been carved by other artists, you will have the opportunity to see how similar they are, as if all were by the same person. I will include one mask that was allegedly made by Conrado Rodríguez Cupis, which also has a dramatic nose. The first (B/M 206/203) was said to have been carved by Ruben Hernández, however neither Tom Kolaz nor I accept that attribution, as we each have a number of masks by that artist and this one is distinctly different from his hand. Furthermore, this is an obvious mask from the Rodríguez family, and a classic mask by Preciliano. The big tip-off is the nose, which is much like the one at the end of last week’s post. The forehead cross is also similar to the one on that mask.


I see this as a brilliant mask. The warty nose is so dramatic. The prominent and rather abstract cheekbones also mark this mask as Preciliano’s. The integration of the cross with the rim design is probably a marker for Preciliano, and almost certainly a Rodríguez trait.

Note the abstract sculpted cheeks and the dramatic nose.


The roses on the cheeks may be later additions. The rim design, with its idiosyncratic combination of elements, is a loud announcement of a Rodríguez hand.


I also like the jutting chin.


As this is so obviously a Rodríguez mask, one is hardly surprised to find that there is no chin cross; there is rarely a chin cross on a Rodríguez mask.


Here is that splendid nose from below. Also there is a glimpse of the angularity of the cheeks from this angle.


The back demonstrates moderate wear. This mask was said to have been danced for 15 years.

The next mask (B/M 468) was also attributed to Ruben Hernández and again, neither Tom Kolaz nor I agree with that attribution, seeing this as another classic Preciliano mask.


Note the even more angular cheek bones with triangles at their bases.


Look at the nose, the cheekbones, and the sagging chin from this side view. The chin juts like that on the previous mask.


This cross with a central red circle is one of an assortment of forehead crosses that regularly appear on Rodríguez masks. Also, this is another example of the integration of the forehead cross with the rim design.


This is another view of these interesting elements.



In this detail of the cheek, note the triangular base at the right side of the photo.


The back demonstrates moderate wear. It was said to have been danced for only two years.

The third mask (B/M 328/320) was initially attributed to José Luz Lopez, however I am inclined to attribute it to either Preciliano or to his brother, Conrado. We see the same butterflies as appear on the cheeks of the last mask, along with a similar nose and jutting chin. The cheeks are less dramatically carved, but resemble those of the first mask in this post. By now this forehead cross is becoming familiar as a marker for either Preciliano or Conrado.


A number of Rodríguez masks have one or two simple teeth like this one.


There is that butterfly. The cheeks have subtle projections, far less dramatic than those on the previous mask.


And here is that familiar cross. Also note the alignment of the cross with the rim design.


There is no chin cross. The cheek projections are more visible in this chin view.


There is good wear. This mask was said to have been danced for 9 years.

The fourth mask was said at collection to have been carved by Conrado Rodríguez Cupis (B/M 214/212). This one has a different but equally dramatic nose.


The freehand white decorative elements on the forehead, the cheeks, and the rim all appear to be afterthoughts, probably painted by the dancer, while Rodríguez designs tend to be outlined by inscribed lines.


This is an unforgettable nose. Note the slanted eyes, which we shall see again in the next two Preciliano masks as well. Furthermore, this could be a Preciliano mouth.


The typical Yaqui forehead cross, projecting in the four cardinal directions, is often said to represent the Christian cross and at the same time the sun. On this mask we find an image of the shining sun, although it looks nothing like a cross.


A view of this dramatic nose from the underside definitely reminds one of the noses of Preciliano.


The teeth also look like those of Preciliano.


The back is moderately stained. This mask was said to have been danced for 12 years. In passing, note the very different shape of the eye openings on the back, compared to their shape on the face of the mask. These eyes are very different from those on the two masks that follow this one.

The fifth mask was originally attributed to Gerardo Barcelo, another carver whose work is quite familiar to Tom Kolaz and me. I will show some of his masks in a few weeks. Indeed, this mask was one of an astonishing variety of masks that were assigned to Gerardo at the time when they were sold to Barney Burns and Mahina Drees, most mistakenly attributed in our view. Tom and I find ourselves unable to look at this magnificent nose without thinking of Preciliano. (B/M 266)


There is that wonderful nose design again. The eyes are highly unusual, not something one routinely finds on either Rodríguez masks or on those of Gerardo Barcelo.


The decoration is spare, a common if occasional trait of masks by Jesús, Conrado, and evidently Preciliano as well.


Note this snouted mouth.


There is no rim design, no forehead cross, and no painted or carved triangles under the eyes. The sculpted nose is sensational from this view.


Look how the grain of the wood shows through the worn paint.


Here is a really clear view of the right eye. The angularity of the cheek is the sort that I associate with Preciliano.


This back shows extensive wear. The mask had been danced for 7 years.

Here is a second example of a mask with those unusual slanted eyes. This one had no identified carver at the time of collection by Barney and Mahina (B/M 322/319), but it is easily attributed to Preciliano due to the nose design and the shaping of the cheeks (the latter feature is better seen in photos that follow this frontal view).


The eyes do look a lot like those on the previous mask, making me think that this feature might be yet another marker for Preciliano’s hand.


From the side, note the unusual shaping of the right cheek, which mirrors those on the second mask, above. The typical incised triangular Rodríguez rim design has been embellished with irregular white triangles that were painted freehand.


Here are details of the right cheek and the nose, all typical of Preciliano.


This photo provides a close look at the eyes, the wonderful nose, plus a good view of the prominence of the right cheek.


This is a very unusual and interesting mouth. The teeth are sketched in with inscribed lines, but not individually carved, a feature associated with Preciliano.


There s no forehead cross. The white triangles in the rim design appear to have been added later.


The back of this mask is particularly broad and rectangular, like the backs of Gerardo Barcelo, although the features on the front of the mask don’t make one think of Gerardo. There is good staining from use.

The last mask in this group was collected by Barney and Mahina in 2006, after it had been danced for 8 years. It was said to have been carved by Juan Flores (B/M 343/336). Looking at the nose, the snouted mouth, and the rim design, I see a Rodriguez mask with a classic Preciliano nose. This photo is not in focus, for which I apologize. Nevertheless it does provide a good impression of the nose.


These long (and often curving) triangles under the eyes seem to be a marker for Preciliano’s hand.


There is a hooked nose, a snouted mouth, and a scalloped rim design, the latter like those of Jesús Rodríguez Muñoz, Preciliano’s son.


The forehead cross is most interesting, as it combines typical vertical triangles with horizontal arms shaped like flower petals. Jesús often makes crosses with all four arms represented by petals. This version may be another specific marker for Preciliano, as there is at least one other mask in the Burns collection that was attributed to him and has this cross (B/M 333/326).


The dramatic lines of the nose are obvious from this angle. In passing, note the slit in the back of the mouth to provide air for the dancer.


There is moderate staining on the back from use.

Next week I will show some more masks by Preciliano and Conrado.

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