Bat-Nosed Figure Pendant, Gold, Diquís

Bat-Nosed Figure Pendant

13th–16th century
Costa Rica
H. 3 1/16 in. (7.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift and Bequest of Alice K. Bache, 1966, 1977
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 357
Among the many Precolumbian gold pendants from the Isthmian region depicting a wide range of animals and composite beings are those that feature bat imagery. They form a sizable group and usually have human bodies with faces that have an upswept, leaflike nose. The nose leaf, here shown as a stylized, projecting loop, is part of the sensing apparatus of leaf-nosed bats which locate their food primarily by sound reflected off their prey, often as small as insects. In addition to the nose leaf, the most characteristic feature on human-bat figures, strongly protruding eyes depicted on stalks, is also associated with bat imagery.

On this rare, carefully cast pendant, the bat-headed figure is adorned with ornamental leg bands, a necklace, and a crown of feathers, and is shown sitting with raised hands above what resembles an entrance to an architectural structure, as if guarding it. Four toothy crocodile heads in profile, with curled snouts, jut from the sides of the entrance.
Private collector, Panama; [John Wise Ltd., New York, by 1962]; Alice K. Bache, New York, 1962–1977 (partial gift from1966)

Jones, Julie, and Susan Mullin Vogel. Notable Acquisitions (Metropolitan Museum of Art) (1965–75), pp. 171–83.

Jones, Julie, and Heidi King. "Gold of the Americas." The Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art vol. 59, no. 4 (Spring 2002), p. 50.