Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Fish Hacha

6th–8th century
Mexico, Mesoamerica, Veracruz
Stone, shell
H. 14 7/8 x W. 3 1/4 x D. 9 5/8 in. (37.8 x 8.3 x 24.5 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1966
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 358
Besides the protective yoke and palma donned in the Mesoamerican ballgame, another element of the player's accoutrements is that known as a hacha. Worn with its notched base atop the yoke, hachas often depict heads, either that of a fallen rival, or of an animal, perhaps one possessing supernatural import. The objects are flattened into a shape that emphasizes the two-dimensional qualities, hence the name hacha ("ax" in Spanish). On this stone hacha, a fish forms the prominent element of the two-sided composition. The abdomen and tail of the fish appear in consecutive, ascending registers of scales above the representation of the head. While such creativity and wit are often evident in the art of Veracruz, the ability of the artist to work within the confines of a strictly prescribed form, in this case the necessary shape of the hacha, is nonetheless remarkable. The shell inlays in the eye sockets and the remaining plaster surface hint at the elaborate original conception of this piece.
[Walter Randel Gallery, New York, until 1966]; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1966–1978

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, 584.

The American Federation of Arts. Primitive Art Masterworks: an exhibition jointly organized by the Museum of Primitive Art and the American Federation of Arts, New York. New York: The American Federation of Arts, 1974, no. 13.

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