Mask With Gold Foil

  • Title: Mask with gold foil
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date: Shang Dynasty ca.1600 – 1046 BC
  • Period: Bronze Age
  • Location: Sanxingdui, Guanghan city, Sichuan Province (middle and lower Yellow River valley)
  • Culture: Shang Culture (of the Shang Dynasty)
  • Medium: Bronze sculpture and gold foil
  • Physical Dimensions: w15 x h45.8 cm (The gold foil with many holes and cracks was spliced with several fragments, lacking the right of its forehead, 4/5 of mouth, and lower jaw)
  • Provenance: Sanxingdui Museum

The decorative mask pictured above is made of gold foil and is affixed to the bronze sculpture of a humanoid head using a paste composed of raw lacquer and lime. Of the many bronze figurines found at the Sanxingdui site, this is one of only four decorated with gold masks. The mask accentuates the very stylized shapes of the figure’s facial features, with large, almost leaf-like eye cutouts, and sloped, pointed eyebrow cutouts. Its proportionally oversized, unevenly placed, and angular ears stick straight out of the sides of the head, featuring sculpted inner-ears, large piercings in the lobes, and a considerably intact gold coating. The gold also blankets the round nose and sharp, pronounced cheekbones of the figure beneath, though its age is apparent in the many cracks and fragmented edges where large sections of the gold mask are missing or significantly deteriorated. Like areas of the mask (though to a much more glaring degree), the visible bronze of the figure itself is corroded and worn from age, and now looks green with the patina coating of the oxidized outer layers.

Author: Alexa Booker

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