The Aztec lapidary artists were fascinated with
hard stones of different colors and shiny
surfaces. Obsidian was used mainly for jewelry,
such as labrets and earspools. An object such as
this superb mask is therefore quite rare,
reflecting the great skill of Aztec stone carvers.
Considerable attention was given to realistic
detail, with its deep set almond eyes, graceful
curve of the brows, sensuous lips and crease
lines parallel to the nose. The rectangular ears
are narrow and very delicately carved. They serve
to make the forehead seem even broader and
contrast nicely with the horizontal slits of the
eyes. Masks were used as "mediums" for spiritual
beings in need of a temporary physical abode.
When an Aztec ruler was ill, masks were placed
on the idols of the gods in the temples, possibly
to either shield the ruler from harmful influence,
or to provide a "channel of communication"
between man and deity. This extraordinary mask
certainly has qualities that are indefinable;
possessing a character and persona beyond our
understanding, except simply to enjoy its beauty.