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Pendant of the Sun Deity

Maya, Late Classic
650/750-900 CE
4.13 cm x 2.22 cm x 1.59 cm (1 5/8 in. x 7/8 in. x 5/8 in.)

Not on view


Carved from a jadeite pebble, the face on this pendant represents the Classic-period sun god. The large round eyes with crossed, square pupils in addition to the scrolls emerging from either end of the mouth are characteristic of this deity. The grooves below his eyes and those outlining his pronounced cheekbones emphasize the sunkenness of his face—old age is also an attribute of the sun god. He wears a headband adorned with square elements, with a larger, central ornament.

Although its use as an adornment in a headband or headdress cannot be ruled out, pendants of the sun god are commonly shown gracing the chests of rulers and other figures. As the primary astronomical body whose movement helped to define the world directions and calendars, this deity was closely associated with kingship.

Judging from the narrowest point of the perforations on the back, a thread of about one millimeter in thickness could have been used for suspension or for sewing the pendant onto clothing. A hollow core drill was employed first to create a depression in the upper, central part of the object; this initial step facilitated the drilling of the perforations from either side.

Benson, Elizabeth P. 1963 Handbook of the Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art. Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, D.C., p. 13, cat. 60.

Bliss, Robert Woods 1947 Indigenous Art of the Americas: Collection of Robert Woods Bliss. National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian institution, Washington, D.C., p. 11, 69, cat. 20.

Bliss, Robert Woods 1957 Pre-Columbian Art: The Robert Woods Bliss Collection. Text and Critical Analyses by S. K. Lothrop, Joy Mahler and William F. Foshag. Phaidon, New York. p. 250, cat. 110, pl. LXV.

Bliss, Robert Woods 1959 Pre-Columbian Art: The Robert Woods Bliss Collection. 2nd ed. Text and Critical Analyses by S. K. Lothrop, Joy Mahler and William F. Foshag. Phaidon, London. p. 258, cat. 110, pl. LXV.

Gallenkamp, Charles and Regina Elise Johnson (EDS.) 1985 Maya: Treasures of an Ancient Civilization. H.N. Abrams, in association with the Albuquerque Museum, New York. p. 183, fig. 136.

Masuda, Yoshio 1981 Kodai Amerika No Isan. Shinch?sha Kodai Bijutsukan ; 14. Kabushiki Kaisha Shinch?sha, Tokyo. pl. 37.

Pillsbury, Joanne, Miriam Doutriaux, Reiko Ishihara-Brito and Alexandre Tokovinine (EDS.) 2012 Ancient Maya Art at Dumbarton Oaks. Pre-Columbian Art at Dumbarton Oaks, Number 4. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C., p. 242-243, pl. 39, fig. 141.

Exhibition History
"Indigenous Art of the Americas", National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, April 1947 to July 1962.

"Maya: Treasures of an Ancient Civilization", American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY, 5/1 - 7/28/1985; Natural History Mueum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA, 8/28 - 11/3/1985; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX, 12/15/1985 - 2/16/1986; Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada, 3/23 - 6/15/1986; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Fine Arts, Kansas City, MO, 7/20 - 10/15/1986; The Albuquerque Museum, Albuquerque, NM, 11/16/1986 - 2/8/1987.

Acquisition History
Formerly in the collection of Felix Wiss, San Jose, Costa Rica.

Purchased from Earl Stendahl, Los Angeles (dealer), by Robert Woods Bliss, December 18,1943.

Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1943-1962.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, DC.

Anthropomorphic | Mayas | Sun god