The magnetic gaze of a Mochica funerary mask from Peru was trained on an American collection of pre-Columbian art, also containing artefacts from Mexico and Guatemala.
Electrifying the cover of Gazette no. 19 of 17 May with its lifelike qualities, this funerary Mochica mask from Northern Peru made a decided impression in the auction room, and was carried off to another destination for €209,396. A powerful object and a significant one, too, because it adds further to our knowledge of the rites of a culture flourishing between 100 and 700 AD. Power was also evident in a dark green serpentine standing figure, which fetched €238,260. This came from the State of Guerrero in Mexico, and was the work of the Olmec culture: an even older one, as it developed between 1200 and 1400 BC. The first Mesoamerican civilisation, this society is famous for its monumental high-relief sculpture and hardstone statuettes and masks illustrating the power and strength of its totem animal: the jaguar. Most pieces featuring the big cat – including this one – show it with a gaping mouth and almond-shaped eyes, often half-closed, and a nose wrinkled like a truffle. The New York collection (whose third part was up for sale here) was particularly partial to these and contained a rare group of them. Another fine lot was a small (h. 10 cm) anthropomorphic mask in speckled green jadeite sporting earrings (€37,912). Mexico revealed further riches with a figure and a seated hunchback in ceramic with brown slip, both from the Colima culture (100 BC -250 AD). These stood out for their "simplified beauty", providing a less terrifying vision of these cultures, often limited in the collective imagination to their rituals and sacrifices. They were rewarded with €37,912 and €78,196 respectively.