Pre-Columbian, Central Mexico, Aztec, ca. 1325 to 1475 CE. An expertly carved and quite large volcanic stone sculpture depicting a coiled serpent with an intimidating visage presenting incised beady eyes, an open mouth revealing sharp fangs and a long forked tongue that extends down to the second of the four coils of its body, and a rattler at the end of his body. Snakes/serpents provide a fascinating element of Pre-Columbian iconography, as important symbols of power, rebirth, transition, and renewal. Since snakes shed their skin annually, thus rejuvenating themselves, the ancients of Mexico viewed them as providing hope for the possibility of change in the face of adversity. Size: 13.5" L x 9.5" W x 13" H (34.3 cm x 24.1 cm x 33 cm)
See an example of an Aztec coiled snake stone sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The curator's descriptions points to other serpents depicted in ancient Mexican visual culture, "At the Main Temple in the Aztec imperial capital Tenochtitlan, serpent depictions proliferate: monumental snake heads, probably representing different species—with open fanged mouths and forked tongues—flank braziers and stairways leading to the sanctuaries. The temple itself is said to have been surrounded at the time of the Spanish conquest by a serpent wall, or Coatepantli, formed by hundreds of adjoining sculptures of snakes." (https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/307635)
The serpent form may also be a reference to Quetzalcoatl - "Feathered Serpent" in the Nahuatl language - the Pre-Columbian deity revered as lord of wind and sky. The earliest representations of Quetzalcoatl adorn the Temple of Quetzalcoatl in Teotihuacan, Mexico (ca. 3rd century CE) where numerous stone heads of the divine plumed snake embellish the steps of this Pre-Classic pyramid. The pioneering artist/anthropologist Miguel Covarrubias whose writings and illustrations on indigenous cultures of the ancient Americas continue to contribute to scholarly studies today stated, "Quetzalcoatl stood for all that was good in this world: peace, art, wisdom, and prosperity. Disguised as an ant, he discovered maize, the staple food of the Indians, hidden under the mountain of Substance, Tonacatepetl; he also invented the arts, the sciences, and the calendar. In fact, everything connected with wisdom and culture was attributed to Quetzalcoatl." (Miguel Covarrubias, Mexico South: The Isthmus of Tehuantepec (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1946), 130.
A similar Aztec stone sculpture of a coiled serpent is listed for $27,500 by a New York dealer - http://historicaldesign.com/print/?product_id=7639
Provenance: private Southern California, USA collection, purportedly acquired at Stendahl Gallery around 1975
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