Paracas Painted Mummy Mask Fragment with Orange and Brown Figure

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David Bernstein Fine Art

March 2, 2017
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Description: Mummy masks are among the earliest textiles in the Paracas textile tradition. They are constructed of plain weave cotton panels with images painted on one side and long, unwoven, hair-like warp threads issuing from the top. They are referred to as "mummy masks" because they are found placed atop the elaborately cloth wrapped mummified remains of what once formed the elite society of Paracas. These masks which were fastened to the top of a mummy bundle like false heads were intended as protectors from the evil spirits that roamed in the afterlife. The image presented on this particular mask is richly painted in orange and brown and is a classic example of the "Oculate Being", a term appropriated by Menzel, Rowe & Dawson to describe characteristic features such as large concentric circular eyes, an upturned mouth often with a protruding tongue, and serpents issuing from various areas of the body. This mask fragment depicts a full-bodied being with serrated, double-headed serpents springing from the top of the head. Between them is a diadem formed from the head of a disembodied cat-like creature. The nose hangs from the forehead in pendant fashion, and the eyes are formed from concentric triangles. The mouth is upturned with bared teeth. A second set of double-headed serpents issue from behind the figure at waist height, and a feline type creature is enclosed within its belly. According to Dawson's "Seriation of Features of Cloth Mummy Masks", 1973 this particular mask can be designated to the Ocucaje10 Phase. A similar example is illustrated and discussed in Dawson, Lawrence, "Painted Cloth Mummy Masks of Ica, Peru", The Junius Bird Pre-Columbian Textile Conference, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, 1979, fig. 13.
Dimensions: Length 12 1/2" x 7"
Date: Peru, Paracas, South Coast, Ocucaje 10 Phase, c. 200 BC
Condition Report: As found and mounted on mat.
Notes: 92014
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