The mask hides as much as it reveals, “denies as much as it affirms”, as Claude Lévi-Strauss asserted. Very often the holder of a secret, the mask conceals that which only the initiated should know.
The mask’s power also lies in its capacity to incarnate spirits, a link between man and his ancestors, between the visible and the invisible world. It is inseparable from a mythical context which structures the mode of existence and thought of the majority of traditional societies.
Central to the life of a group or a community, the mask, an indispensable intercessor, is always active.
Mask, Teotihuacán culture, Mexico, 150 - 650 A.D, greenstone, Gift of Alphonse Pinart, 71.1878.1.168
The Teotihuacán culture is distinguished by the absence of dynastic sculptures and of a likely wish to neither commemorate nor glorify its leaders. The anthropomorphic sculptures are unusual and their faces are impersonal, idealised. Found in large numbers on the floors of palaces, the masks may have been the faces of large dressed statues of which the bodies, made from perishable materials, have disappeared.