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Rattle of a Man Wearing a Bird Mask

Arts of the Americas

Solid and hollow Maya ceramic figurines like these representing men wearing elaborate animal headdresses and masks are common funerary items, found primarily on Jaina Island in Mexico. High social status is indicated by the elaborate regalia and ornaments. The nobleman in the center wears a removable serpent-head headdress decorated with precious quetzal feathers, possibly associating him with the Feathered Serpent deity Kukulcán. The whistle on the left depicts a man wearing a jaguar mask and sacrificial scarf emblematic of the God of the Underworld. The rattle on the right represents a man wearing a bird mask and holding two rattles. His large, feathered back ornament is an attribute of the turkey or vulture. Turkeys (associated with fertility) and vultures (associated with sacrifice) were used as ceremonial offerings.

Figurillas maya sólidas y huecas como éstas, representando hombres que visten elaborados tocados animales y máscaras, son objetos funerarios comunes, encontrados principalmente en la Isla Jaina en México. La alta posición social se indica por los ropajes elaborados y la ornamentación. El hombre al centro lleva un tocado removible de cabeza de serpiente decorado con preciosas plumas de quetzal, asociándolo posiblemente a la deidad Kukulcán, la Serpiente Emplumada. El silbato a la izquierda muestra un hombre llevando una máscara de jaguar y un pañuelo ceremonial emblemático del Dios del Inframundo. La maraca a la derecha representa a un hombre llevando una máscara de pájaro, y sosteniendo dos maracas. El gran ornamento de plumas que lleva a su espalda es un atributo del pavo o zopilote. Pavos (asociados con fertilidad) y zopilotes (asociados con sacrificio) eran utilizados como ofrendas ceremoniales.

MEDIUM Ceramic
DATES 500–850
PERIOD Pre-Spanish
DIMENSIONS 7 1/4 x 5 x 3 1/4 in. (18.4 x 12.7 x 8.3 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
CREDIT LINE Frank Sherman Benson Fund and the Henry L. Batterman Fund
PROVENANCE Prior to 1842, provenance not yet documented; 1842, acquired in the Yucatan, Mexico by Benjamin Moore Norman of New Orleans, LA; 1844, gift of Benjamin Moore Norman to the New-York Historical Society, New York, NY; 1937, loaned by the New-York Historical Society to the Brooklyn Museum; 1950, purchased from the New-York Historical Society by the Brooklyn Museum.
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MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Maya. Rattle of a Man Wearing a Bird Mask, 500–850. Ceramic, 7 1/4 x 5 x 3 1/4 in. (18.4 x 12.7 x 8.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Frank Sherman Benson Fund and the Henry L. Batterman Fund, 37.2785PA. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 37.2785PA_overall_PS11.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 37.2785PA_overall_PS11.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2022
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