Pre-Columbian, Mayan Territories, ca. 550 to 900 CE. A large stone monument carved to depict an avian/deity in deep relief with nice remains of white pigment on the surface. When viewed from one direction, the figure represents a bird with crest feathers, parted beak, large eye, wings, and feet finely delineated. What make this piece even more fascinating is that when viewed "upside down", the image seems to possess human features, its large eye or skeletal orbital and bone-like nose suggesting it may represent the Mayan death god. A remarkable monument, special for its sculptural techniques, clever artistry, and layers of symbolic meaning. Size: 6.75" W x 9.5" H (17.1 cm x 24.1 cm)
Birds were revered as sky animals associated with the celestial realm - the sun, the moon, and Venus - where they acted as sacred messengers between humankind and its deities. According to Pre-Columbian mythology, each of the thirteen principal celestial deities also had a winged disguise, all of which were birds except for the butterfly. Depictions of the Death God were oftentimes location-specific, because many of the Mayan city-states had their own version, but they nevertheless adhered to general Mayan understandings about these ominous deities, who inhabit a dark underworld and often parade with a motley crew of spooks and were-beasts.
Provenance: Collection of William Leazer and William Swann; Dallas, Texas, USA
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