A visit with a 95+
year old mask carver.
A Giant Among Carvers of Mexican
El Señor Don
Teodoro Tacuepian Galván
Born 14 July 1911
On or about 13 December 2012 I received an update from friends that Don
Teodoro seems to be as active as ever at age 101 years of age. He
continues to carve many masks from the wood of his avocado orchard.
I had the great privilege of meeting Don Teodoro for the
first time on 31 December 2005. I did not have my camera along with me
on this occasion so we borrowed a cracker box of a camera and it continued
to function even after we dropped it. We sent his great-grandson
on a walk to the village to pick up a roll of film. The road was
too treacherous for me to want to make too many trips over it. I
damaged the oil pan on a prior trip near there about a month prior.
I did not care for that to happen again. The four principal pictures
shown here are a product of that roll of film.
I had seen many masks made by Don Teodoro as far away as
Oaxaca. I had purchased many. My picker had been trying for
a year to find who made the masks. He finally located him in the
state of Puebla near Zacapoaxtla in a village called Tatoxcac. He
still makes masks in his free time when he gets hot or tired working up
in the hills near his home.
Don Teodoro is a self-taught mask carver. He is able
to carve one mask a day. Aguacate is his wood of preference. He uses
pieces of broken glass as scrapers to smooth out the roughly chiseled wood.
Then in other free moments he applies the paint using homemade paint brushes
made from turkey feathers. He takes a large quill and cuts off the
tip so that it looks about like the tip of a ball point pin. Through
that hole he inserts smaller, finer feathers. I hope he does not
mind me revealing his trade secrets.
Don Teodoro began carving at age 63 so if you find one
of his masks, it is unlikely that it is more than 31 years old. I
have some of his older masks that seem to have been more finely carved
and beautifully painted. From the form I can be certain that he carved
the masks in question, but I suspect that the sometimes quite beautifully
decorated masks have been repainted by others and sometimes adapted to
be used as carnival masks.
Important notice 4 Nov 2009:
I have noticed that the market has been recently flooded with masks of
Don Teodoro's design. Some of the masks are skillfully painted and
artificially worn and patinated, both on front and back. Some
have been patinated less skillfully, mostly with smoke on the back. Collectors
should be aware of this realizing that those who do the alteration are
trying to deceive. I am speaking of masks such as the one that he
is holding -- but with other paint. I don't know if the deceptive
masks were purchased from Teodoro and patinated by someone else or if someone
is now carving with the same design as his. The dealers that are
selling these masks are naturally claiming ignorance of any deception.
What a pleasure to converse with this man and see his
demonstrations. He is extremely hard of hearing and one must shout very
close to his ear to be heard. He seems to have an eternal smile and
seems to really enjoy being with people.
|| I hope that you have enjoyed sharing my experience
with El Señor Don Teodoro Tacuepian Galvan whom I consider a giant
among the carvers of Mexican dance masks.
My name is Vernon Kostohryz. That's me next to
I am happily retired in San Miguel de Allende, Gto.;
Mexico, and mostly as a pastime buy and sell Mexican antiques.
here if you are interested in the online purchase of Mexican antiques
here if you would like more specifically to see or purchase antique
Mexican dance masks.
Vernon R. Kostohryz
May He Rest In Peace
His memory lives on.
El Señor Don
Teodoro Tacuepian Galván
At the Age of 102 years
Passed Away 26 November 2013
Over 600 people participated in his funeral procession.
The above mask recently carved by Don Teodoro was exhibited as a memorial at his last rites.
Photo presented courtesy Jovani Damián, a Great-Grandson, and resident of Pennsylvania, USA.
Mexican Dance Masks