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Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Figure Stamp

1st–7th century
Costa Rica
Atlantic Watershed
H. 1 7/16 x W. 2 1/8 x D. 1 1/2 in. (3.7 x 5.4 x 3.8 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
Not on view
Ceramic stamps are found in Costa Rican burials, suggesting that their importance extended beyond utilitarian. Much speculation has been made with regard to the material that these stamps were intended to imprint, including paper, textiles, and the human body. The curved shape of the printing surface supports the function of body painting most strongly. This theory is reinforced by the presence of stamp motifs on Costa Rican ceramic figure sculpture. The designs of the stamps can be divided into two categories, those that mimic the geometricity of textile structure and those that do not. The frog stamp, with the angular lines of an amphibian, falls into the category of textile imagery, whereas the more fluid depiction of the serpent is derived from a more naturalistic source.
[Jerome M. Eisenberg, New York, until 1967]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1967, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1967–1978

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