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Snake Head

Aztec, Late Postclassic
1200-1520 CE
5.72 cm x 8.26 cm x 15.24 cm (2 1/4 in. x 3 1/4 in. x 6 in.)

On view


This sensitively rendered serpent head probably represents a rattlesnake, with its characteristic lance shape to accommodate the venom-producing glands on either side of the skull. The polished stone surface has been incised, detailing the scales on the head and outlining the supraorbital ridges.

The head comprises three broken fragments, rejoined almost invisibly, because the breaks are crisp and show no signs of wear or erosion. The head was probably part of a coiled serpent sculpture. A complete coiled serpent sculpture at the Hamburgisches Museum für Völkerkunde measures 9 inches high and 9½ inches long, and the head, about 5 inches long and extending from the body at about a 40° angle, is similar in size and proportions to PC.B.077.
PC.B.077’s balance of form and quality of carving reveal it to have been the work of a master artisan. It is among the most realistically carved of all the Aztec serpents, and it is not significantly flawed by recent minor reworking in the area of the mouth.

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. 23, cat. 106.

Boone, Elizabeth Hill 1986 Speerschleuder. In Glanz Und Untergang Des Alten Mexico, Arne Eggebrecht, ed. vol. 2. Verlag Philip von Zabern Mainz am Rhein. cat. 156.

Hvidtfeldt, Arild 1987 Mexicos Kunst - Før Spanierne Kom. Louisiana Revy; 28. Årg. Nr.1. Louisiana Museum, Humlebæk. p. 74, cat. 149.

Exhibition History
"Indigenous Art of the Americas", National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, August 1960 to April 1962.

"Die Azteken und ihre Vorlaufer: Glanz und Untergang des Alten Mexico", Roemer- und Pelizaeus-Museum, Hildesheim, Germany, 6/30 - 11/9/1986 (catalogue # 156); Ausstellungsleitung Haus derKunst, Munich, Germany, 12/6/1986 - 3/6/1987; Ober'sterreichisches Landesmuseum, Linz, Austria 4/3 - 8/2/1987; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark, 8/15 - 11/30/1987; Musees Royaux d'Art et d'Historie, Brussels, Belgium, 12/1/1987 - 3/30/1988; National Archaeology Museum, Athens, Gerece, 5/16 - 7/21/1988; Société du Palais de la Civilisation, Montreal, Canada, 7/30 - 10/30/1988.

Acquisition History
Purchased from Robert Stolper, New York (dealer), by Robert Woods Bliss, 1960.

Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1960-1962.

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

Aztecs | Serpents