MASK FOR FUNERARY BUNDLE
CHANCAY – Peru
1100 – 1470 A.D.
Height : 29.7 cm – Width : 27 cm – Depth : 12.7 cm
Wood, inlaid seashells, red paint
Former collection Carlo Monzino (1931-1996), Switzerland
Collection Galerie Mermoz since 2016
This mask is an extremely rare piece, miraculously saved by the desert climate of the coast of Peru which has preserved it underground for centuries. It is the work of the Chancay culture which developed on the central coast between 1100 and 1500 AD, after the collapse of the Huari civilization (550-900 AD). Its exceptional state of conservation, its large size, its white seashell inlays, and its own history, make it a captivating work, attesting to the ancient Peruvians and their attraction for wood, with which they made quantities of precious objects .
It is a mask with human features sitting upon a bundle containing the mummy of a deceased. The embalming of bodies was common in pre-Hispanic Andean cultures. The most ancient traces of this ancestral custom have been found, not in Egypt, but many thousands of years earlier, in South America, on the border of Peru and Chile, among the Chinchorros, from the 7th to 2nd millennium BC.
Carved with care, this piece respects the codes of representation of Peruvian fardo (bundle) masks. Its geometric face, covered with significant traces of red paint, is in a quadrangular shape and the physiognomic details are reduced to the essentials, with no naturalistic intention. The slightly raised eyebrows form wide curves above large elliptical eyes inlaid with white shells. Originally, these sockets were to be decorated in their center with stone discs or resin elements, circular and dark, representing the pupils.
Perhaps they also had tufts of hair, placed under the shells as eyelashes, a feature found on some Chancay masks.
We note here the size of the fine, aquiline nose, strongly projected forward. The sinusoidal folds descending from the nose to the lower jaw are supported, creating a sort of triangle in which fits an expressionless mouth, signified by a simple groove. In general, the shape of the eyes, nose, mouth and facial folds are typical of the human faces of ancient Peru, all civilizations combined.The top of the head is flat - like the sides of the face of the rest - and the forehead is unpainted. This indicates that the mask must have been wearing wig of hair, embellished with a headband, turban, or braided hat.
The top of the head is flat - like the sides of the face of the rest - and the forehead is unpainted. This indicates that the mask must have been wearing wig of hair, embellished with a headband, turban, or braided hat.
The dark brown spots visible on the cheekbones as well as the light band on the bridge of the nose reveal the probable presence of metallic ornaments, which are now missing.