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Figurine of a Nobleman with Detachable Headdress

Arts of the Americas

On View: Arts of the Americas Galleries, 5th Floor
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, pigment
  • Place Found: Mexico
  • DATES 600-900
    DIMENSIONS figure (a): 6 1/2 × 3 1/4 × 2 1/2 in. (16.5 × 8.3 × 6.4 cm) mask (b): 4 1/2 × 4 1/2 × 1 1/2 in. (11.4 × 11.4 × 3.8 cm)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Arts of the Americas Galleries, 5th Floor
    ACCESSION NUMBER 2009.2.19a-b
    CREDIT LINE Gift in memory of Frederic Zeller
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Solid figurine (Jaina style) of a Maya lord (a) with an elaborate, detachable mask-headdress (b), wearing elaborate garments and ornaments that are painted blue, red and white. A wide collar and pectoral hang down his chest. Over this is a large and long necklace from which hangs a skull. The strands of the necklace wrap around to the back. A smaller necklace lies closer around his neck. His skirt is segmented and painted alternating blue and red. There is a large decoration on his left sandal. His arms are decorated with wide bracelets. The mask consists of a helmet decorated with long feather plumes.
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