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Maya, Late Classic
650/750-900 CE
5.4 cm x 6.35 cm x 0.95 cm (2 1/8 in. x 2 1/2 in. x 3/8 in.)

Not on view


This jadeite object, likely an ornament worn as part of a composite assemblage, is carved to represent a jaguar head in profile. The off-center perforation would have provided the primary axis from which the piece was suspended, while the two small holes on either end likely served to secure the work. The object was meant to be seen only from the carved, frontal side; the back side retains the mismatched ridge, or septum, that resulted from the string-saw cut, as the circular indentation left by the string at the septum attests. Moreover, the artist was keen to keep the brown impurities of the stone hidden on the back side. The natural curvature of the jade’s surface was incorporated into the carved image so that the jaguar’s large eye, created with a tubular drill, would dominate the thick, protruding portion of the work. The rest of the lines were cut in a manner in which the individual, linear strokes of incision can be detected. This approach produced jagged and angular facial outlines, particularly around the mouth and neck.

The snarling jaguar head displays a prominent canine, a wide eye, a thick neck ruff, typical of jaguars, is also visible at the base of the head. The smaller face behind and to the left of the jaguar head was carved in lower relief and on a thinner part of the stone. It has a square eye, angular mouth, and stubby nose.

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. 153.

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. 240-241, pl. 38, fig. 139

Exhibition History
"All Sides Considered: New Research on the Maya Collection:, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington DC, 09/08/2012 - 06/02/2013.

Acquisition History
Purchased from Williams Hawker by Robert Woods Bliss, 1961.

Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1961-1962.

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