Spheroid jadeite beads—as part of composite pendants, necklaces, wristlets, anklets, belts, earflare assemblages, headbands, and headdresses—adorned the bodies of elite individuals), and their placement in burials reveals possible uses of such beads. On a practical level, the sheer weight of the amassed jadeite accoutrements is denoted in some representations by counterweight draped over the wearer’s back (see PC.B.553).
Most of the lot of these twenty unstrung beads is of irregular form, with one hemispherical and a few oblate and spheroid beads. Almost all of these objects retain a high-level polish, which suggests the use of machinery or application of wax; these were common practices among art dealers and collectors in the twentieth century as ways to enhance the undecorated beads’ appearance. The objects are drilled biconically.
In depictions of both mortals and deities, a material manifestation of breath exhalations, in the form of beads, often appears in front of the nose (see PC.B.602). Additionally, jade beads are commonly found placed in the mouth of the deceased, as if to safeguard the ephemeral spirit within a durable material. Just as jade earflares carved in the form of blossoming flowers symbolized supernatural portals through which wind and breath passed (see pc.b.180), spheroid jade beads were also carved with floral motifs, as one of the beads in this lot attests. On this oblate spheroid (spherical with flattened poles) bead, four shallow grooves emanate from the central perforation to create four petals. Both poles have a groove encircling the perforation.
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. 14, cat. 67.
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. 251, cat. 116-M, pl. LXVII, bottom.
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. 259, cat. 116-M, pl. LXVII, bottom.
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. 266, 268-269, pl. 47, fig. 155.
"Carved in Stone: Hardstone Objects from the Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss," Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, 7/15/2010 - 1/15/2011.
Purchased from Robert Stolper, New York (dealer), by Robert Woods Bliss, 1956.
Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1956-1962.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, DC.