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Teotihuacan masks come in several sizes that are worked in several different media. Best known are the life-sized renditions worked in stone. There are also countless examples of the same type of face but measuring about one inch across and made of clay. Some wooden masks also survive. PC.B.059 is an unusual case, a stone mask of standard proportions but unusual size, less than three inches tall, including its pointed hat. The size thus distinguishes this example from the typical stone mask; other distinctive features are the notable delicacy of the carving and the perforation of the mask at the mouth.
There are two comparable examples of small masks in Teotihuacan style so we can assume that this small mask is an atypical example of the larger tradition, but it is not unique.
The unusual features of this piece, combined with its fine material and high quality of artisanship, make it enormously attractive. It is an object that inspires a kind of affectionate loyalty, and was apparently long in the possession of the early twentieth-century collector Joseph Brummer, who “refused to part with it during his lifetime”. Joseph Brummer had acquired it in Paris, and the object was reputed to have belonged to the widow of Porfirio Díaz, president of Mexico until the Mexican Revolution of 1911, when he fled into exile in Paris and died in 1915. It would have had intrinsic appeal for Robert Bliss, whose taste in Pre-Columbian objects favored polished stone pieces of small size and elegant design.
Benson, Elizabeth P. 1963 Handbook of the Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art. Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, D.C., p. 2, cat. 6.
Benson, Elizabeth P. 1993 The Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art: A Memoir. In Collecting the Pre-Columbian Past: A Symposium at Dumbarton Oaks, 6th and 7th October 1990, Elizabeth Hill Boone, ed., pp. 15-34. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C.
Bliss, Robert Woods 1957 Pre-Columbian Art: The Robert Woods Bliss Collection. Text and Critical Analyses by S. K. Lothrop, Joy Mahler and William F. Foshag. Phaidon, New York. p. 239, cat. 37, pl. XXIX.
Cleveland Museum of Art 1946 Art of the Americas. A Special Exhibition Held in the Museum from Nov. 8, 1945 through Jan. 6, 1946. Cleveland. picture book no. 2: 28.
Gump, Richard 1962 Jade: Stone of Heaven. Doubleday & Co., Garden City, N.Y., p. 191.
Kelemen, Pál 1937 Battlefield of the Gods; Aspects of Mexican History, Art and Exploration. Allen & Unwin, London. pl. 2, left.
Kelemen, Pál 1943 Medieval American Art, a Survey in Two Volumes. Macmillan, New York. p. 032, pl. 247.c, embossed in gold on cover and illustrated on dust jacket of 1956 edition
Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology 1940 An Exhibition of Pre-Columbian Art. January 15 through February 10, Arranged by the Peabody Museum and the William Hayes Fogg Art Museum. Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., cat. 165.
Taft Museum 1950 Ancient American Gold and Jade: An Exhibition. Taft Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio. cat. 17, frontispiece
"An Exhibition of Pre-Columbian Art", Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, MA, 1/15 - 3/2/1940 (catalogue # 165: "Lent by Joseph Brummer).
"Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art,", Museum of Modern Art, New York, May 1940.
"Art of the Americas". Cleveland Museum of Art, OH, 11/8/1945 - 1/6/1946 (Picture Book No. 2, p. 28 "Lent by the Brummer gallery, Inc.").
"Ancient American Gold and Jade", Taft Museum, Cincinnati, OH, 10/6 - 11/19/1950 (catalogue # 17)
"Indigenous Art of the Americas", National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, May 1948 to April 1962.
Purchased from Ratton by Joseph Brummer, New York (dealer), October 3, 1934
Purchased from Ernest Brummer, New York (dealer), by Robert Woods Bliss, June 17, 1947.
Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1947-1962.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, DC.