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Mouth Mask

Arts of the Americas

A common motif in Nasca art is the Anthropomorphic Mythical Being, or “masked god,” interpreted by scholars as a symbolic representation of the powerful spirits residing in nature. On the vessel seen here, the being is associated with agricultural fertility, as indicated by the many multicolored peppers depicted on its body. The figure holds two trophy heads in one hand and a club and some peppers in the other. Decapitation and the shedding of blood were associated with cultivation and the regeneration of plants. The figure is also shown wearing a hammered-gold mouth mask with snake imagery similar to the one displayed here. Snakes were linked to fertility and water cults.
MEDIUM Hammered gold
  • Place Found: South Coast, Peru
  • DATES 100–400 C.E.
    PERIOD Early Nasca, Phases 2, 3, or 4
    DIMENSIONS A: 3 × 3 3/4 × 1/4 in. (7.6 × 9.5 × 0.6 cm) B: 2 x 2 7/8 x 1/4 in. (5.1 x 7.3 x 0.6 cm) C: 2 x 3 x 3/16 in. (5.1 x 7.6 x 0.5 cm) Total weight: 13.37 g  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
    ACCESSION NUMBER 86.224.110a-c
    CREDIT LINE Gift of the Ernest Erickson Foundation, Inc.
    PROVENANCE Prior to 1950, provenance not yet documented; by 1950, acquired by Ernest Erickson of New York, NY; December 16, 1986, gift of the Ernest Erickson Foundation, Inc. to the Brooklyn Museum.
    Provenance FAQ
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Hammered repousse gold mouth mask that was worn suspended from the septum of the nose. Main section has circular void for mouth; around the void is a collarlike form with a scalloped border. The border is decorated with repousse dots and short curved lines that form the eyes and mouths of a series of stylized faces. Flanking the nose on the upper portions of the mask are two sets of five stylized whiskers taking the forms of serpents--four project to each side and one curves upward and inward encirling the nose; each set also contains a large stylized face with circles for eyes and a mouth that curves upward. The mask is in three parts; originally, these parts may not have been separated. Condition:good.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Nasca. Mouth Mask, 100–400 C.E. Hammered gold, A: 3 × 3 3/4 × 1/4 in. (7.6 × 9.5 × 0.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Ernest Erickson Foundation, Inc., 86.224.110a-c. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 86.224.110a-c_bw.jpg)
    IMAGE front, 86.224.110a-c_bw.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    Nasca. <em>Mouth Mask</em>, 100–400 C.E. Hammered gold, A: 3 × 3 3/4 × 1/4 in. (7.6 × 9.5 × 0.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Ernest Erickson Foundation, Inc., 86.224.110a-c. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 86.224.110a-c_bw.jpg)