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The Mask of the Sombrerón, illustration for El Sombrerón

A work made of linocut in black on ivory japanese paper.
© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SOMAAP, Mexico City

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  • A work made of linocut in black on ivory japanese paper.

Date:

1946

Artist:

Alfredo Zalce
Mexican, 1908-2003

About this artwork

According to Guatemalan Maya-Quiché legend, the Sombrerón is a bogeyman figure with supernatural erotic powers who enchants young women. The Mexican poet Ortiz de Montellano, a member of the vanguard literary group Los Contemporáneos, developed a puppet-theater production based on the tale, which was first performed at the Casa del Estudiante Indígena in Mexico City in 1930 and later published in this 1946 edition, with illustrations by Zalce. Rather than focusing on the cautionary aspects of the legend, the play thematizes humanity’s determined, if futile struggle to control both the natural world and unknown spiritual forces while suggesting the deep connections between these realms. Zalce’s images, in turn, convey the diversity of tone and character evoked by this fantastical production, from the simple rendering of the indigenous peasant protagonists to the elusive, shape-shifting nature of the Sombrerón and the spirit world.

El Sombrerón, like Zalce’s Yucatán portfolio, sold well and helped the Taller de Gráfica Popular repay debts accrued during the war years. Book illustrations such as these by Zalce had yet another life on the market. They were printed on fine or colored papers and sold individually or in portfolios, often to U.S. collectors.

Español:
Según la leyenda maya-quiché guatemalteca, el Sombrerón es un personaje con poderes eróticos sobrenaturales que encanta a las mujeres jóvenes. El poeta mexicano Ortiz de Montellano, miembro del grupo literario vanguardista Los Contemporáneos, desarrolló una producción teatral de títeres basada en el cuento y la presentó por primera vez en la Casa del Estudiante Indígena de la Ciudad de México en 1930. Posteriormente, se publicó esta edición de 1946 con ilustraciones de Zalce. En lugar de enfocarse en el aspecto admonitorio de la leyenda, la obra aborda la lucha inútil, aunque decidida, de la humanidad por controlar tanto el mundo natural como las fuerzas espirituales desconocidas, al tiempo que esboza las profundas conexiones entre ambos mundos. Las imágenes de Zalce, en cambio, ofrecen la diversidad de tono y carácter que emergen de esta fantástica producción; desde la sencilla representación de los campesinos indígenas protagonistas, hasta la elusiva y cambiante naturaleza del Sombrerón y el mundo de los espíritus.

El Sombrerón, al igual que el portafolio de Zalce sobre Yucatán, tuvo buenas ventas y ayudó a que el Taller de Gráfica Popular pagara las deudas que había contraído durante los años de la guerra. Las ilustraciones para libros, como éstas de Zalce, adquirieron una nueva vida en el mercado. Fueron impresas en papel fino o de colores y vendidas individualmente o en portafolios, a menudo a coleccionistas de Estados Unidos.

Status

Currently Off View

Department

Prints and Drawings

Artist

Alfredo Zalce

Title

The Mask of the Sombrerón, illustration for El Sombrerón

Place

Mexico (Artist's nationality)

Date

Published 1946

Medium

Linocut in black on ivory Japanese paper

Dimensions

Image: 8.5 × 11.2 cm (3 3/8 × 4 7/16 in.); Sheet: 11 × 24.2 cm (4 3/8 × 9 9/16 in.)

Credit Line

The Art Institute of Chicago

Reference Number

Obj: 199521

Copyright

© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SOMAAP, Mexico City

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.

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