Lot 1893: Pre-Columbian Olmec Mask Pendant
December 9, 2016
London, United KingdomLive Auction
Description: 1st millennium BC. A carved jadeite D-shaped panel with holes to the upper and lateral edges; to one face a facing mask with narrow eyes, broad nose, downturned mouth, flanked by arched lines. 86 grams, 75mm (3"). From the private collection of a German gentleman; acquired prior to 1999. The Olmecs were the first people in Mesoamerica to create a codified religious universe that we can recognise today through the surviving art. Olmec deities had features of the powerful animals of the tropical rain forests, with the principle deity being a were-jaguar, brought to life through the mating of a human female and a male jaguar. These deities display a mix of human and feline features and the most enduring of these were-jaguar deities is the Rain Baby, a deity whose tears were believed to bring the life giving rains. The mix of human and feline features could relate to the Shamanic practice of trance rituals where the practitioner was believed to enter the body of an animal, such as a jaguar, in order to communicate with the spirit world. The creation of luxury objects from jade required a material which didn't occur in the heart of Olmec culture. Therefore rulers dispatched parties to procure the stone, and over these jade routes the Olmec empire reached into what is now Honduras, as well as to Mexico city area and the Pacific Ocean. This way, the culture expanded through the Mesoamerica and create the base for later Maya culture, traceable in art style, rituals and ballgame. The facial expression with the narrow eyes and crescentic mouth resembles that of the Olmec jadeite mask displayed in the The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York under accession number 1977.187.33.
Condition Report: Fine condition.