Jadeite was the favored material for ornaments in the Intermediate Area until gold and other metals were introduced from the Andean region around 500. It was considered desirable for its hardness, brilliant hues, and lustrous surface, all appropriate for ornaments intended to distinguish the rank and status of the wearer. Jadeite was also relatively rare, and to date, only one source for the raw material, the Motagua Valley of Guatemala, has been definitively identified. The Costa Rican jadeites, however, probably come from a different source.
This pendant, made out of a piece of light-blue jadeite with dark specks, represents a feline, probably a jaguar, standing on its back legs and holding its tail between its front paws. Different stone-working techniques are evident. The eyes, fangs, and the opening at the neck for a suspension cord, were fashioned with drills equipped with siliceous stone tips. Other carved areas and grooves were made using a type of cord saw, where plant fibers or strips of dry animal skin were held taut by a curved piece of wood. The final step, which smoothes the surface and gives it a high luster, was made with a stone polisher with the aid of sand and water.
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. 40, cat. 213.
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. 263, cat. 197, pl. XCV.
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. 271, cat. 197, pl. XCV.
Bühl, Gudrun (ED.) 2008 Dumbarton Oaks: The Collections. Published by Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C., p. 238-9.
"Indigenous Art of the Americas", National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, July 1954 to August 1956.
Purchased from Carlos Balser by Robert Woods Bliss, August 6, 1953.
Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1953-1962.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, DC.