This impressive, subtly contoured pendant plaque is fashioned from a large, cut slab of jade. The highly polished stone is dark, opaque green with relatively large crystalline inclusions. Four biconically drilled suspension holes occur on the top edge of the plaque, two through the right-angled tips and two others in the central curved region. Whereas the outer pair of holes pass through the sides and top edge of the slab, the more interior holes were created by drilling through the top edge and back of the piece. Thus, none of the drill holes are readily visible from the front of the pendant. Moreover, although the front has gently beveled edges, the back side of the pendant is flat and slablike. Although subtle, the contour of the pendant is fairly complex and sinuous. The top edge has three gently curving emanations, creating two shallow clefts some 6 centimeters from either end. These depressions are centered on two other gently swelling emanations on the opposite lower edge of the piece, with a broad indentation complementing the large central curve of the upper edge. The pendant has been interpreted as a bat with outstretched wings, although with no indication of a bat head or body. Although it is conceivable that this pendant represents a highly stylized bat, its abstract nature mitigates against any firm links to the natural world. Both the type of stone and workmanship of this pendant are compatible with Olmec jades. The use of "hidden" suspension holes drilled through the top edge and back is commonly found in Olmec pendants. Moreover, another object in the collection (PC.B.023) shares not only a similar type of jade and the use of hidden suspension holes, but also a slab-like form, with little attempt at three-dimensionality or even fully rounded edges. It is quite possible that both represent relatively late examples of Olmec lapidary work. However, at present, the form of this pendant is unique among the Olmec and cannot readily be compared with other stone pendants or their depictions in Formative or later Mesoamerican art.
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. 30, cat. 150.
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. 246, cat. 81, lam. LIII.
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. 254, cat. 81, lam. LIII.
Taube, Karl A. 2004 Olmec Art at Dumbarton Oaks. Pre-Columbian Art at Dumbarton Oaks; No. 2. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C., p. 162-3, pl. 34.
"Indigenous Art of the Americas", National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, May 1948 to July 1962.
Acquired by Robert Bliss before 1948.
Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1948-1962.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, DC.