New Department: The Mayan Masks

C.S Pozzi Espinosa  and G.j.A. Bresso pursue their exploration of the pre-Columbian and  Mesoamerican cultures.
Our Art House presents you the most important archaeological discovery of the last decade in Mexico: "Jade-mosaics from mayan masks". These exceptional masks, completely restored by the most eminent specialists in Mayan archaeology, represent the faces of the divinity. Created for the most prestigious governors of the Mayan lost Cities, they had for mission to assure the eternal life to these high dignitaries after their death.
About fifteen masks were discovered to date.

In 2012 these masks were presented to The Pinacothèque de Paris.

This extremely rare group, which Mexico agreed exceptionally to export, was exposed alongside hundred archaeological items which left Mexico for the first time.

On this occasion, masks were measured and listed by C.S Pozzi Espinosa and G.Bresso.

Five years of study have resulted in the opening of a new department dedicated to the production of jade and fine stones masks (Turquoise, Coral, Amazonite).

Our Art House affirms its continuity with its historic  predecessors, to the point that the aspect of our productions merges with the antique artefacts. We so give you the freedom to  dive in the sophisticated and mysterious cosmogony of these thousand-year-old cultures.



The archaeologists date the installation of the Mayas in Central America near 2000 years BC. Their cultural presence includes the peninsula of Yucatán and the State of Chiapas in the South of Mexico and extends in current Honduras, Salvador, Belize and Guatemala.
This brilliant civilization became famous in all the domains: the astronomy, the mathematics as well as in a complex system of writing, consisted of glyphes recently deciphered.
Contrary to the centralized organization of the Inca Empire, the Mayan political system is similar to a mosaic of Independents Cities-States who alternate according to the events, the armed conflicts and the alliances. The Mayan civilization reaches its peak during  the Classical period, between 250 and 900 AD. At present, the items produced and exposed refer quite at that time of cultural development.
If the Mayas are famous for their architectural fulfillments, in particular the magnificent Cities of Chichén Itzá, Tulum or Tikal, have distinguished themselves in other artistic forms, starting with the sculpture.

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Today, C.S Pozzi Espinosa and G. Bresso wish to highlight this underestimated aspect of this older culture.

Masks came to light in Mesoamerica at the beginning of the Pre-Classic Period. We know, thanks to the Olmec, Mayan, Mixtec and Mexicas representations, that during pre-Hispanic times the high-ranking characters, the government, the priests and the warriors, during religious, political and judicial ceremonies, initiations, births and deaths, would adorn themselves in exactly the same attire, wear their masks and for a time become the embodiment of gods, wherein lay the highest authority.
The profile highlights the narrow demarcation between the face and the mask, as illustrated in the stelea 11 of Yaxchilán where the Bird Jaguar appears in front of a group of prisoners, Wearing the  imposing costume and fearsome mask of rain god Chaak.

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For that reason, and because masks were considered as living creatures surrounded by the power of those whom they represented, Mayas called them by the syllable of "k'oh", meaning "image" or "representation".
In the same way, the funeral mask was set aside the power to transfigure the one who carried him, by conferring him the eternal essence which the body did not possess. A profound symbolism and ritual characterized at the same time the material and shape of these masks. The mosaic technique, based on the use of jade fragments, shells, marine snails, obsidian and haematite in the Classical period, then amazonite and turquoise from late Classic, allowed Mayas to create forms and varied compositions. This technique limited the wastage of fine-stones, stones were all the more precious, especially, because of through their intrinsically linked to the supernatural divinities.

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Nephrite (natural jade) was considered as an essential element in the same way as the sky or the ocean, the sources of life in which lived the creative gods in their celestial and aquatic duality. Jade symbolized the sustainability, the humidity, the fertility, the renewal, the revival, the soufle and the vital essence.
As with the marine shells and the metallic minerals, the jade symbolized channels of communication between the three levels of the cosmos.

The use of Jade began very early in Cities as Nejab, Kaminaljuyú and Zaculeu, built in the Early Classic  period,  near the jade deposits of the Southern highlands.  In these ceremonial centers, was discovered a considerable quantity of objects, which prefigure the style developed in the Classical period. In  Toniná, many jade objects were found, contrary to Uaxactun and Oxkintok.
In Palenque, Calakmul and Tikal, magnificent offerings were excavated such as masks and bundles (The term of "bundle" reffers to the body of the deceased wrapped up in a piece of cloth then in a pop, or a palm) manufactured in Jade and malachite, ornemanted with shells, coral, conch, obsidian and haematite. A vast collection of items from the Post-Classic Era was found in the Sacred Cenote at the pre-Columbian Maya archaeological site of Chichén Itzá, next to artefacts from the Classical period.

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The Mayas were fascinated by the green colour. Jade was for them the rarest and the most precious material. In contrast, The Incas saw gold as the archetypal divine metal. Privilege of an élite, the green stone was also associated with the sacred. In a surprising way, Mayas used these "loin stones" to represent one of their main divinities, K'awiil, a Maya deity identified with lightning, serpents, fertility and maize. The illustrated katun cycle of the Paris Codex suggests that the presentation of the head of K'awiil – perhaps holding the promise of 'Innumerable Generations' – was part of the king's ritual inauguration and accession to the throne. These outstanding sculptures, works of superb technical virtuosity, bear the signatures of the Mayan artists who made them from ornamental rock tesserae, adapting tesserae's size and colour, to obtain a big naturalism.

Ricalling that a "tessera" (plural: tesserae, diminutive: tessella) is an individual tile, usually formed in the shape of a cube, used in creating a mosaic. It is also known as an "abaciscus" or "abaculus".

Jade masks were found in the burial place of Elite groups and/or politcal authority. A part of funeral masks represents the individualized faces of the Mayan leaders. It is the case of the singular Mask of King K'inich Janaab Pakal ~ K'inich Janaab' Pakal (603 CE- 683 CE) which has frozen for eternity the sovereign's facial features.

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The reading, and translations of representative works were enriched by a fruitful putting in context: masks were presented with the remainder of the funeral's trousseau which includes necklaces, earrings, pectoral, bracelets, ceramic and other offerings. It is the first time, since their exhumation and their dispersal in various museums, that these remarkable artworks were collected. Seven royal tombs were so reconstituted.
Another part of the exposed masks represents The Mayan Pantheon which, following the example of the real and mythic Inca ancestors, combine human, animal and plant features. Worn by the Mayan elite during the ritual ceremonies, masks allowed it to embrace the face of the divinity and to achieve so its intermediary's role between terrestrial and celestial. spheres.

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The new Mayan Jade Masks, today presented by our team, are the fruit of five years of study and analysis.

Our work presents an historic opportunity to appreciate these spectacular artworks which ally political prestige and manifestation of the sacred.

Sharpened by the recently renewed emphasis of our contemporaries, on the origins, C.S Pozzi Espinosa and G.Bresso turned to the disciplines which profess the Humanistic values to trace the cultural memory which they are the custodians.
These disciplines allow them to interpret the testimony of old and to carry the traditions and the objects which constitute the wealth of their memory, while the abstract knowledge disappeared with the collapse of the great cultures rereading.

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The archaeology and the conservation are two complementary disciplines. That is what the one has for vocation to exume material vestiges, legacies of past civilizations and bearers of memory, and other one to protect these vestiges to submit them or study and analysis. To obtain positive results in the area of scientific investigation, it is evident to establish a methodology and education, as well as the development and implementation of conservation standards for recovered objects. 

As in the case of a restoration, it is at the time of its completion that the artistic object comes to life, knowing the best moment of its existence, because immediately after it is threatened by the degradation process of its constituent materials. Artistic taste is relative, cause the value is largely in the eye of the beholder. So, it becomes as an cultural entity in its own right.

However, the fact of being meaningless does not affect its intrinsic nature. Quite the contrary, it is then freed of all psychological-representative aspects .
Every day, scales shift and matter transforms, does eventually dissipate and degrade and disappear. If we want to understand the process of creation and the intrinsic nature, it is a necessary loss in order to accept the idea that the ageing is a part of the History and Human Art. In other words, the physical disintegration of the material is a part of phenomena which the conservatives and/or private collectors must take into account to be able to understand the physical nature and the symbolic dimension of the works of a particular time.

Every time a unique piece used completely outside its original context to integrate the dynamics of a different system, the deterioration and the natural  ageing processes  are interrupted. It is the for the conservative and the collector to do whatever they take to protect its original qualities and to transfer substantiated information to the researchers from other disciplines.

Nowadays, the conservation of cultural assets is no longer considered as an empirical  activity, but as a full discipline, based on scientific and technological processes.
Any act of conservation, no matter how small, supposes a renovation of the physical state of the piece. The artefact lacking the capacity to preserve itself, will require the addition of  similar materials or not from those used at the origin, but in the end, which will restore its physical and aesthetic integrity.
To that end, the  conservator and\or the craftsman use natural or synthetic materials.


Nevertheless, the choice is made on a case-by-case basis, by taking account the nature of the various materials to decide which ones are best suited to the preservation of the piece. However, whatever the quality of the chosen malterations that it underwentaterial, it is necessary to anticipate its long term behavior and the possible interactive effects with the other artefact components.
Because without it, instead of protecting the piece, there is a great risk to accelerate the degradation process. The preservation of the item depends on knowledge avaible in and through the historical context : to know the place of birth, the alterations, and finally, to seize the sensibility of the artist or the craftsman who realized this piece.

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Thus our work continue to be characterised by continuity, on the basis of the restoration exercise.
The protection and the conservation of cultural material are the key pillars of conservation professional organizations.
This principle should be maintained with all possible care.

The first task of the conservative, is to protect and to stabilize the state of preservation, without neglecting the other components  such as the symbolic language and the esthetic qualities.
When the represented image is a part of the object itself, any modification must be carefully thought through and justified. The interdisciplinary approach is essential for the preservation of antiques if the conservation professional wants to obtain a reliable result, to the extent necessary, neither of these modern disciplines alone es capable of arresting all references, language and the images from the mythologies.

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The research work is the essential approach to understand the historic and cultural context in which masks and offerings are born, as well as the meaning of the images, the symbols and the used materials.
As objects which the Mayas attributed supernatural qualities, masks and offerings played important roles in religious rituals which they kept during centuries, until they are extracted from their funeral context to become archaeological objects. Today, their integration in a new context obliges us to take into account all the esthetic and symbolic qualities which were theirs when they were created. Rediscovering their integrity, objects become Mayan Artworks characterised by an exceptional quality.


The Directorate