New World, Guatemala, ca. 20th century CE. A fantastic wooden mask in the form of a deer's head with real antlers projecting from its head. The eyes are made from found glass objects, inset into the head, and ringed in red paint; the rest of the face is painted a deep, glossy brown. There are some iron nails in the sides of the head that seem to have once held other decorations - one has the remains of a feather in it. The back of the mask has a string for attachment. Size: 9.75" W x 13.55" H (24.8 cm x 34.4 cm)
This mask is part of the Baile de Venados, the Dance of the Deer, based on an old Maya ceremony and still performed in eastern Guatemala by the Q'eqchi' Maya amongst other groups. The original meaning of the dance was to provide food for the people of a community, and the dance is staged as a hunt, with people disguised as dogs helping chase the deer, and other people disguised as monkeys trying to steal the deer meat.
Provenance: private Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA collection
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