Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

Bird-Headed Figure Whistle

Date:
8th–9th century
Geography:
Mexico, Mesoamerica, Veracruz
Culture:
Veracruz
Medium:
Ceramic, pigment
Dimensions:
H. 20 1/4 x W. 9 1/2 x D. 5 3/4 in. (51.4 x 24.1 x 14.6 cm)
Classification:
Ceramics-Musical Instruments
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1963
Accession Number:
1978.412.80
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 358
This freestanding ceramic figure represents a mastery of Veracruz decorative style and a spirited, improvisational use of form. An attitude of power is conveyed by a wide stance, outward extended elbows, and hands placed upon hips. Opposing the solidity of this posture is the floating, asymmetrical form of a fantastic horned and feathered serpent projecting from the head of the masked human figure or bird-headed anthropomorph. This figure wears an elaborate collar and a loincloth with a panel decorated with an abstract design that can be read as a splayed anthropomorphic figure. The broad collar that caps the figure's shoulders possesses a central element and is incised along its edge to depict a fringed border. Panels of scrollwork and interlaces and bands of repeated motifs characteristic of the art of Veracruz appear in relief on surfaces throughout the composition. The figure is actually a whistle and its musical function and the creative, whimsical compositions that inform the object give it an air of ceremony and celebration.
[Robert L. Stolper Galleries, New York, until 1961]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1961–1963; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1963–1978

Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, 587.

Newton, Douglas. Masterpieces of Primitive Art: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978.

Moore J. Kenneth, Jayson Kerr Dobney, and Bradley Strauchen-Scherer. Musical Instruments: Highlights of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. First Printing ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015, p. 38-39.



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