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Photo Credit: © Dumbarton Oaks, Pre-Columbian Collection. Photography by Joseph Mills.

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Two-Sided Pendant of Human and Animal

Maya, Early Classic
200-650/750 CE
2.86 cm x 2.86 cm x 1.27 cm (1 1/8 in. x 1 1/8 in. x 1/2 in.)

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The figure in this carved jadeite pendant wears the headdress and costume elements typical of Classic Maya nobility, with sizable circular earflares and a beaded necklace. The artist’s creativity can be seen at the tip of the rigid stone in the irregular outline, which suggests movement and the softness of a flopped, cloth headdress. The face is boldly rendered with coffee-bean–shaped puffy eyes and a bulbous mouth. Carved lines indicate the top of the figure’s arms at the shoulders. The front side, with the human face, was carved on the side of the stone with the richest green color. The reverse side shows more light-green to gray coloration. The pendant has four biconical perforations, two of which run roughly parallel to each other: one at the level of the base of the headdress and the other at the base of the earflares. The earflares are also perforated.

Typical of Early Classic pendants, this piece was initially carved on only the front; the plain, reverse side was merely smoothed and polished. After the original creation of the pendant, however, the object was renewed with an image on the reverse side. The back side of the headdress was transformed into an animal’s face—perhaps that of a turtle or bird—with circular eyes opened by a tubular drill. In profile, the triangular tip appears as the animal’s hooked beak. A deep incision was made only on the animal’s right side. Otherwise, on either side of the body, faint and short incised lines were added, as if to define the back of the head or front feet and the carapace edge. Two notches and a line connecting them were cut toward the bottom of the stone to shape the tail end of the turtle carapace or tail feathers, and the resulting triangular corners serve as the animal’s back feet.

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. 61.

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. 27.

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. 109, 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. 109, pl. LXV.

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. 200-201, pl. 23, fig. 112, 113.

Exhibition History
"Indigenous Art of the Americas", National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, April 1947 to July 1949, November 1952 to July 1962.

"Lasting Impressions: Body Art in the Ancient Americas" , Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, 10/1/2011 - 3/4/2012.

Acquisition History
Purchased from Charles L. Morley, New York (dealer), by Robert Woods Bliss, 1947.

Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1947-1962.

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

Animals | Anthropomorphic | Mayas