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This is a photographic record of a mask picker's favorite masks collected  from the Mexican states of Puebla and Veracruz beginning in 2005.

Mexican Masks of the Decade  (2005 -2014) Wall of Fame

Formerly Mexican Mask of the Month

(Click on smaller pictures for enlargements and descriptions.)












My name is Vernon Kostohryz and have retired to live in Mexico. I routinely acquire Mexican dance masks, mostly from the states of Puebla and Veracruz.  I enjoy the hunt for Mexican antiques and have decided not to go overboard with a personal mask collection as I  do have other antique hobbies.  The hunt for the masks takes me to many exciting places with extraordinary scenery and isolated exotic cultures.  With little wall space and a wife that prefers other wall decorations, I will instead place some of my outstanding trophies on this site.  For the benefit of those that have not yet located my sale site for Mexican dance masks it is at:  http://kostohryz.hypermart.net/salesite/masks/masks1.html .  The masks chosen by me for this honorary site might still be for sale.  You are correct if you assume that I have put a higher price on that particular trophy, not being too concerned if it doesn't sell.  Some of the selections might have already have been sold and the new proud owners will have confirmed my choice by voting with their pocketbooks.   If you are a proud owner of one of the masks placed in this wall of masks, and you do not want it displayed, please inform me and I will remove it and replace it with another.  You might imagine that I can be flexible.  You may write me at:   vernonkostohryz@gmail.com .  More contact information is at:  http://kostohryz.hypermart.net/salesite/index.html .

1 February 2010 Post:  In the past I  attempted to select a "Mexican Mask of the Month" from my more recently acquired finds.  From the monthly selections, I would then pick a "Mexican Mask of the Year -- Wall of Fame".  Masks from the region that I search have become exceedingly scarce so I feel that I cannot continue to follow that policy.  The page was also becoming overly loaded.  In the future, I will only post  the most deserving mask on a yearly basis.  Vernon

1 January 2015 Post:  As of this date, after a full decade of selecting the best mask found for each year, I will discontinue the selections and rename the site to:  "Mexican Masks of the Decade  (2005 -2014) Wall of Fame"

I hope that you have enjoyed seeing my ten favorites selected from the hundreds collected over the decade from the highlands of Puebla and Veracruz.
Vernon R. Kostohryz



Mexican Mask of the Year -- Wall of Fame -- 2005
TITLE:  Payaso -- Volador or Flying Clown
MATERIAL:  carved and painted heavy wood 
APPROXIMATE SIZE: 7 X 7 inches 
ESTIMATED CARVING DATE: 1975
CONDITION:  excellent -- no doubt it has been affectionately repainted over the many years.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:   This mask was found in the state of Veracruz. It was purchased from a 70 year old retired volador.   I also purchased masks from his brother and one of his compadres, also ex-voladores. The voladores, or flyers, are the ones that go up a three story pole and fly back down on unwinding, spinning ropes--hanging upside down.   It is uncommon now that the voladores use masks but in his time he did with this clown mask.  The uniqueness of this mask is that it has four eye slits rather than two. One set of slits is below the painted eye and another set above.  This was ideal because the wearer would have vision both up and down as the dancer hurdles down head first in this dangerous sport.  This does not mean that all other four slitted masks were used by voladores but this type of mask is rare. The mask is exceptionally well carved with thin, stiff walls. There was a ritual and tears were shed before this mask left the owner's house. The carver carver was: 
Matéo Luna Vásquez 
    aka Luís de Luna 
Born 23 December 1953 
Died 14 May 2008 
Carved in Zozocolco de Hidalgo, Veracruz. 
NOTICE:  It is with sadness that I report that at or around 1:00 P.M. on 20 March 2006 in the community of El Tajín in Papantla, Veracruz the above mentioned volador, Jesús Arroyo Cerón, fell to his death after performing while descending from the volador pole.  After performing at the top of the mast, he was the last to come down.  Rather than come down the the more secure way of climbing down the pole, he chose to rappel down a rope.  Apparently he did not slow his descent by wrapping the rope around a leg. The rope began to burn his hands and about half-way down he released the rope and fell to his death.  I had enjoyed speaking with the man. I remember him telling me that no one in his group had ever fallen. He said that he had retired from the performances at around 60 years of age.  This means that he had aged 10 years since, and he had been that many years without practice.  Whatever compelled him to do this last performance, he died doing what was a great source of pride for him. You can read more of this, some in Spanish and some in English at:
http://kostohryz.hypermart.net/salesite/volador/volador.html

Click thumbnail photo to see another view: 



 

Mexican Mask of the Year -- Wall of Fame -- 2006

TITLE:  Large Carnival Mask 
MATERIAL:  carved and painted heavy wood with horse hair fo facial hair 
APPROXIMATE SIZE: Tip of ear to tip of ear is 9 inches.  9 1/2 inches tall. 
ESTIMATED CARVING DATE: 1950 
CONDITION: good 
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: This huge mask was carved by a known carver in the state of Puebla near the border with the state of Veracruz.  After purchasing the mask in the village we took the mask to the 83 year old carver who was born in 1923.  He identified it as one he had done over 50 years ago.  He still carves--but mostly furniture.  This carver was: 
Marcelino Núñez Vásquez 
Born 1923
Carved in San Juan Ozelonacaxtla, Puebla
 

Click thumbnail photo to see another view: 


Mexican Mask of the Year -- Wall of Fame -- 2007

TITLE:  Payaso Mask 
MATERIAL:  carved and painted heavy wood 
APPROXIMATE SIZE: 6 1/2 X 7 1/2 
ESTIMATED CARVING DATE:  1960
CONDITION: good--not shown in this view is a repaired crack running down the side of the face.  Many years ago someone did a good job of repairing the crack but glue residue mars the finish surrounding the crack.  I myself did some restorative filling of many worm holes on the back of the mask--but that is another story. 
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: This very old payaso mask was carved by a known carver in the northeastern highlands of the state of Puebla.  The old customs of the dances are fading away and the 77 year old carver seldom carves new ones.  He is usually in the fields working when we visit.  He barely speaks Spanish.  We did not purchase this mask directly from the carver but when we do visit, he and his pleasant family always invite us to eat.  The carver was actually the same as the carver whose mask was selected the previous month (February 2007).  This mask was carved much earlier in his career.  The carver was:

Roberto Villegas Santiago 
Born 14 May 1930 
Carved in San Juan Ozelonacaxtla, Puebla.
Click thumbnail photo to see another view: 


Mexican Mask of the Year -- Wall of Fame -- 2008

TITLE:  Red High Cheek-Boned Carnival Mask
MATERIAL:  carved and painted heavy wood 
APPROXIMATE SIZE: 6 3/4 X 7 inches
ESTIMATED CARVING DATE: 1948
CONDITION: very good
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: The carver of this great mask died in 1996.  I have owned very large masks by this carver but I especially like this smaller, but normal size mask.  The small size puts a lot of detail in a smaller space.  The carver was born in 1921 and executed his works in the northeastern highlands of the state of Puebla.  The mask was carved by: 
Narciso Iturbide Charro 
Born:  6 August 1921 
Died:  18 March 1996 
Carved in San Antonio Rayón, Puebla 

Click thumbnail photo to see another view: 


Mexican Mask of the Year -- Wall of Fame -- 2009

TITLE:  Giant Oso Mask 
MATERIAL:  carved and painted heavy wood with rubber ears 
APPROXIMATE SIZE:  back to front 19 inches, 11 inches high, and 11 inches wide 
ESTIMATED CARVING DATE:  1980 
CONDITION: good--I purchased the 30 year old mask from the original carver but the articulating jaw seems to be a replacement, no doubt restored by him. 
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: This huge oso (bear) mask as shown here modeled by the carver, was found in the state of Veracruz close to the Border with Puebla.  The articulated jaw is sustained by four strands of recently replaced rubber tubing. Another piece of rubber on the interior holds the mouth shut until the wearer pulls down on a cord tied to the underside of the chin. In publication, Entre los hombres y las deidades:  Las danzas del Totonacapan, Rubén Croda León gives an interesting account of a complex, traditional dance which includes this oso character.  He shows a picture taken in the same municipality  where I purchased this huge mask.  In the picture a dancer wearing a similar  mask is is being dressed by another person with a cape covered with moss that simulates hair of the beast.  Notice in the picture of the backside of my mask, there is a cutout that clears the dancer's neck so that his head can extend within the masks.  The wearer has vision to the outside through the mouth when it is opened.  There is also minimal vision through the two nostrils. This dance is apparently unique to a very small region and the mask itself is an equally unique find.  This mask was carved by: 
José Gonzalez Hernandez 
Born 8 April 1951 
Carved in community of Colonia Morelos, Coxquihui, Veracruz
 
 
 

Click thumbnail photo to see another view: 


 

Mexican Mask of the Year -- Wall of Fame -- 2010

-- This year I had the good fortune of finding several masks that could have merited the distinction of Mexican Mask of the Year.  I gave preference to this mask because of its age. Our reseach indicated that it was 135 years of age when collected.  Obviously, it was restored, but family accounts and the patina on the back assisted our confirmation of the age. --

TITLE: 19th Century Mask  
MATERIAL: carved and painted heavy wood 
APPROXIMATE SIZE:  6 X 6 inches 
ESTIMATED CARVING DATE:  1875 
CONDITION: good --  When I purchased the mask. it had a recent coat of paint that was only one of many coats over the last 135 years.  The previous coat of paint was not removed and the outlines of some of the underpaint showed through the current coat. Not removing the previous coats forbode bubbling or lifting of the paint at a later date. I found an excellent restorer of paint on masks who did an great job of restoring the mask to its original beauty. The enlargement of the back of the mask, near the red letters, will reveal a crack repaired by someone over the masks long lifetime. 
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS
We purchased this mask from the great-granddaughter of the original carver.  She herself is a fouth generation (occasional) carver.  The carver of this mask seems to be the first of the four carving generations of the Juarez family.  I have/have had examples of the four generations of carvers. This is a small mask depicting a young boy.  The lady had repainted the mask as a clown for her son to use in the celebrations. 

Click on this thumbnail to see how it looked before the restoration:  

This latest coat of paint restored it to its original character. 
One seldom finds such an old Mexican mask whose age is supported by a family's account.  The patina on the back also supports the claims of age.

Click thumbnail to view enlargement of mask's back: 
The mask was carved by: 
José Juárez 
My best estimate based open what we know of the family, this carver was born approximately in the year 1850. 
Carved in Nanacatlán, Puebla.
 

 




 Mexican Mask of the Year -- Wall of Fame -- 2011

TITLE:  Saintly Female Mask 
MATERIAL:  carved and painted heavy wood 
APPROXIMATE SIZE:  6  X 7  inches
ESTIMATED CARVING DATE:  1950
CONDITION: very good 
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:  
It should not be difficult for one to believe that the carver of this mask was also an accomplished carver of religious saints for several churches of the region. This beautiful mask was carved by the talented  Magno León.  
 We were only recently fortunate enough to find several fine examples of his works. This was the best. When you see a back carved like this one, you know it is  a Magno León mask.

Click thumbnail photo to see the back view:   
 
This mask was carved by:
Magno León
Born12 March 1914                                                                                                                   
Died 11 April 1977
Carved in 
Huetlalpan, Puebla


 
 

Mexican Mask of the Year -- Wall of Fame -- 2012


TITLE
:  Pilato Mask

MATERIAL:  carved and painted heavy wood 
APPROXIMATE SIZE:  7 1/2 X 10 1/4 inches
ESTIMATED CARVING DATE:  1980
CONDITION: good
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:  
This mask was being danced in a village called called Xaltipan, Puebla. 

Click thumbnail photo to see the back view: 

The mask was carved by:
Silverio Ochoa Martinez
born 20 June1944
carved in Xiutetelco, Puebla.






 
 
Mexican Mask of the Year -- Wall of Fame -- 2013


TITLE:  Skull Mask  
MATERIAL:  carved and painted heavy wood  
APPROXIMATE SIZE:  6 3/4 X 10 1/4 inches
ESTIMATED CARVING DATE: 2003  
CONDITION: good  There are several repaired cracks, especially as seen on the top of the skull. 
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: 
Skull masks of this quality are a rarity. It was danced in the Day of the Dead and carnival ceremonies. Notice the articulated jaw.

Click thumbnail photo to see the back view: 

The mask was carved by:
Arturo Salazar
Born 8 January 1985
Carved in Xochitlán, Puebla






 
 
Mexican Mask of the Year -- Wall of Fame -- 2014


TITLEBrujo Mask
MATERIAL:  carved and painted heavy wood  
APPROXIMATE SIZE:  7 1/2 X 9 1/2 inches
ESTIMATED CARVING DATE: 1979 
CONDITION: good -- The enlarged frontal view will reveal what was likely once a fissure running from the top of the mask down thru the forehead and on down to the upper lip.  It may have never been a wide opening  nor completely separated.  Whatever the case, someone did an excellent job of  mending because it is firmly joined.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: 
This is a sturdily built brujo (witch ) mask.  I am intrigued by articulated jaw masks an this mask is not exception. This was a much used mask that shows many years of wear in the patina on the back of the mask.
Click thumbnail photo to see the back view: 

The carver is unknown.
The mask was found in Coxquihui,Veracruz 








Another mask will be posted around the end of every year.

Links to Related Sites



Border Antiques

Mexican Masks

Don Teodoro

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