A Few More Yaqui Pascola Masks

I surprised myself by finding so much to say about Yaqui Pascola masks that I posted on that subject for 11½ months. I wondered whether there was anything left to to write about, thinking that I might as well make it a full year. Sure enough, I found a few more clusters of interesting masks. This week I will turn again to anonymous masks that have tormented me for one or two decades. Those from my collection are some of my favorites.

I purchased this mask from John Kania and Joe Ferrin in Santa Fe, in 1991. It was obviously old and wonderful, but it came with no history.

This mask apparently had inlaid mirrors on the cheeks, which are now lost. Also notable are the inscribed decorative scrolls on the forehead and cheeks.

The nose has a delicate profile and there are dramatic pouting lips. The triangles of the rim design are recessed (carved out below the surface of the mask).

The forehead cross and the chin cross are also recessed.

The eyes/ vision openings are almond shaped. There are white painted dots on the lips to indicate teeth. This mask is 7¾ inches tall, 5 inches wide, and 2½ inches deep.

The back of this mask is heavily  stained from use and there is an old strap. This is a terrific mask by an unknown mid twentieth century carver.

I found a mask in another collection that had a similar appearance. This one was collected from Julian Moreno in 1980. Julian said that the mask was carved by Faustino Moreno of Colonia Militar, Sonora about 35 years earlier (circa 1945) and that it had not been danced for 20 years.

This mask has a frowning snouted mouth. There are inscribed lines on the face.

The area under the chin, which is mildly concave, carries a cross.

There is a recessed Christian cross on the forehead.

The chin cross is also recessed.

The back of this very old mask does not closely resemble the back of the first mask. Although these two masks have several common details, they are not so similar that one could be sure that they had the same carver.

The third mask, another by an unknown hand, does not closely resemble either of the other two, but it has inlaid mirrors on the cheeks and chin and only one is missing.

Note the irregular outlines of the inlaid mirrors, as if they were chipped by hand into a circular shape. There is no rim design and no evidence that there ever was one.

The snouted mouth rests on a relief carved platform, maybe meant to indicate a goatee. I have never seen this feature on any other mask.

This mask has neither a forehead nor a chin cross.

This mask is 7½ inches tall, 4¾ inches wide, and 2¼ inches deep.

The sting that locks the hair bundles has been glued in place. This back has considerable staining from use.

Here is another mask with a snouted frowning mouth. I bought this from an estate.

The lizards on this mask are distinctly different from those we have seen on other masks. They appear to be later additions. The painting style of this mask, where decorative elements are rendered in nested contrasting colors, is typical of Manuel Centella Escalante, but other features don’t resemble his hand, and I believe that the red paint was added later, as it is less carefully applied than the white.

The cross and the triangles flanking the cross are unusual and distinctive. In their flair, they make one think of Manuel Centella.

There is an intriguing recessed area under the chin. This mask is 7½ inches tall, 5 inches wide, and 2¾ inches deep.

Another really unusual feature is the drilled hole to accommodate the dancer’s nose. The air passages from the carved nostrils end within that recess. Although I have never seen this exact version, I am reminded of similar unusual arrangements on other masks by Preciliano Rodriguez, and the shape of the back is well within his range of variations. Therefore I suspect that this mask was carved by Preciliano, but I am uncertain.

The last mask in today’s post is another mask with a snouted frowning mouth. This mask, from the Barney and Mahina Burns collection, was said to have been carved by “Gerado Barcelon” of Potam in about 1990. Unfortunately we should doubt this attribution, as there were many masks in that collection that had been erroneously attributed to Geraldo Barcelon by Yaqui sellers, when they were obviously by other known carvers. Furthermore, this one does not have his classic back.

Nor does this mask resemble the one above, except for the mouth design and that recessed area under the chin.

We see yet another painted lizard. The rim design makes me think of the Rodriguez carvers, although actually it is generic.

There are drilled nostrils.

The recessed hollow under the chin is subtle, but plain to see when one is actually holding the mask.

The back demonstrates moderate wear.

Next week will be my final post on the subject of Yaqui Pascola masks.

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