Celt with Incised Profile

10th–4th century B.C.
Mexico, Mesoamerica
Jade (jadeite)
H. 14 3/8 x W. 3 1/8 in. (36.5 x 7.9 cm)
Stone-Implements, Jade
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1963
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 358
About 1000 B.C., celts-elongated, elliptical ground stone tools-would acquire meaning beyond their workaday function. When made of greenstones such as the hard, polishable jadeite, celts symbolized ears of maize. The profile image incised on the upper portion of this celt is that of the Olmec maize god, identifiable by the tall tripartite element emerging from the cleft in his headdress.
[Julius Carlebach Gallery, New York, until 1956]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1956, on loan to Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1956–1963; Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1963–1978.

Covarrubias, Miguel. Indian Art of Mexico and Central America. New York: Knopf, 1957, fig. 33.

Museum of Primitive Art. Sculpture from Mexico Selected from the Collection of the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: Museum of Primitive Art, 1964, pl. 3.

The Society of the Four Arts. Primitive Art from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. Palm Beach: The Society of the Four Arts, 1964, no. 54.

Museum of Primitive Art. Masterpieces in the Museum of Primtive Art: Africa, Oceania, North America, Mexico, Central to South America, Peru. Handbook series. New York, NY: Museum of Primitive Art, 1965, no. 81.

Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art. Pre-Columbian art of Latin America, 10th century B.C.-16th century A.D. Ithaca: Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art, Cornell University, 1966, no. 14, p. 36.

The Art of Ancient and Modern Latin America: Selections from Public and Private Collections in the United States. New Orleans: Isaac Delgado Museum of Art, 1968, no. 11.

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, no. 555.

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. 75.

Newton, Douglas. Masterpieces of Primitive Art: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978, p. 192 top right.

Coe, Michael D., ed. The Olmec World: Ritual and Rulership. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Art Museum, 1996, p. 262, fig. 1.

Fields, Virginia M., and Dorie Reents-Budet. Lords of Creation: The Origins of Sacred Maya Kingship. London and Los Angeles: Scala Publishers Limited, 2005, no. 13, p. 111.