Crocodile Rattle, Ceramic, Maya

Crocodile Rattle

8th century
Mexico, Mesoamerica
H. 2 x W. 3 3/8 x D. 7 3/8 in. (5.1 x 8.5 x 18.7cm)
Ceramics-Musical Instruments
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 358
This zoomorphic ceramic figure has been hand-modeled into the form of a crocodile. It functions as both a whistle—air holes appear in front of the animal's rear legs on its underside, and an air vent is found underneath its neck—and a rattle—clay pellets are inside the front half of the figure.

The crocodile has raised eyelids projecting from atop its long, upturned snout with round nostrils and three triangular teeth projecting horizontally from each side of his mouth. Flopped and flaring dog-like ears project from back sides of the head behind the eyes. Its short, squat legs splay out from the underside of the body. On the two forelegs, toes have been delineated through notched and incised detail. The long, flat, wide tail features triangular notches replicating the zigzag pattern of a crocodilian tail.

The surface decoration includes a wash of the vibrant indigo- and clay-based pigment known as Maya blue, which appears everywhere except the tail, legs, feet, ears, eyes, and teeth. The underside of the figure is unpainted and unadorned, although scorching/fire clouding are visible. Incised details appear below the eyes, and the top of the figurine has been covered with incised, crosshatched lines, probably meant to evoke the scaly texture of the creature's body. Lozenge-shaped lumps run in three lines down the back of the crocodile's body, beginning between the eyes (central row) and behind the ears (outer rows). These bumps allude to the nodule-like scales that protrude along the dorsal side of a crocodile. They are also referencing cacao beans, which Maya sculptors often portray as a lozenge with an axial incision.

Exhibition History
"FIERY POOL: The Maya and the Mythic Sea." Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA. March 27, 2010–July 18, 2010. (Then traveling to the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX. August 29, 2010-January 2, 2011; St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO. February 13, 2011–May 8, 2011).
"I Maya." Palazzo Grassi spa, Venice, Italy. September 5, 1998–May 16, 1999.

Publication History
Finamore, Daniel and Stephen D. Houston 2010. FIERY POOL: Maya and the Mythic Sea. Salem, MA: Peabody Essex Museum and New Haven: Yale University Press. [Pl. 72, pp. 228–229]
Schmidt, Peter, Mercedes de la Garza, and Enrique Nalda. 1998. MAYA. Milan: Rizzoli/Bompiani. [p. 515, Pl. 12]
[Everett Rassiga, New York, until 1965]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1965; on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1965–1978

Schmidt, Peter, Mercedes de la Garza, and Enrique Nalda. Maya: Exhibition at the Palazzo Grassi in 1998. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 1998, p. 515, pl. 12.

Finamore, Daniel, and Stephen D. Houston, eds. Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea. Salem and New Haven: Peabody Essex Museum, 2010, pp. 228–229, pl. 72.