Bird Pendant

Date: 1st–5th century

Geography: Costa Rica

Culture: Atlantic Watershed

Medium: Jadeite

Dimensions: H. 2 5/8 x W. 3/4 x D. 1 7/8 in. (6.7 x 1.9 x 4.7 cm)

Classifications: Stone-Ornaments, Jade

Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979

Accession Number: 1979.206.1138

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 357
Tropical Costa Rica is the habitat of an enormous number of bird species, many of which acquired symbolic dimensions in depictions in stone. This pendant, made of a jadeite of great clarity, features a toucan. Yet its upright stance and folded arms indicate that the figure is anthropomorphic, implying perhaps that it is a masked or transformation figure. Adding to the complexity of the image is a trophy head where the figure's feet should be. Disembodied heads are frequent in Precolumbian Costa Rican art. This pendant is said to be from the Atlantic Watershed region, one of the two primary areas of jade use in ancient times. The other is the northwestern province of Guanacaste. Each area is generally associated with characteristic stylistic features in jade and other antiquities.


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Supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies
[Andre Emmerich Gallery, New York, until 1965]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1965, on loan to the Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1965–1978

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, no. 544.

Easby, Elizabeth Kennedy, and John F. Scott. Before Cortez: Sculpture in Middle America. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1970, no. 220.

Newton, Douglas, Julie Jones, and Kate Ezra. The Pacific Islands, Africa, and the Americas/The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987.

Graham, M.M., Juan Vicente Guerrero M., Michael J. Snarskis, and Z.S. Mendez. Jade in Ancient Costa Rica, edited by Julie Jones. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998.

Coe, Michael D. The Maya. 6th ed. New York: Thames & Hudson Inc., 1999.