Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Bird Vessel

12th–9th century B.C.
Mexico, Mesoamerica
Ceramic, red ochre
H. 6 1/2 in. (16.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1986
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 358
Animal effigy vessels are among the most engaging objects known from Mesoamerica. Often the animal body forms the entire vessel, but at other times the creature is placed on top of an equally hollow, low cylinder that is marked, as here, with cloud or water motifs. The smooth, tapering surface of the bird's body emphasizes the crisp lines of the beak, breast, and wings, and the gloss of the blackware surface contrasts with the rough, matte finish of the base. Eagles and other birds of prey were powerful symbols in ancient America, where they marked the realm of the sky. This young raptor, beak open and tongue just visible, appears completely birdlike but has human ears. The combination of human and animal traits is common on vessels of this type, probably based on a shamanic ideology in which predators of the sky, water, and earth were seen as group emblems.
Marcel Ebnother, Sempach-Station, Switzerland, 1973–1986

Related Objects

Seated Figure

Artist: Date: 12th–9th century B.C.
Accession Number: 1979.206.1134
Date: 12th–9th century B.C. Medium: Ceramic, pigment Accession: 1979.206.1134 On view in:Gallery 358

Bird Vessel

Artist: Date: 12th–9th century B.C.
Accession Number: 1986.45
Date: 12th–9th century B.C. Medium: Ceramic, red ochre Accession: 1986.45 On view in:Gallery 358

Codex-Style Vase with Mythological Scene

Artist: Date: ca. 7th or 8th century
Accession Number: 2014.632.1
Date: ca. 7th or 8th century Medium: Ceramic Accession: 2014.632.1 On view in:Gallery 358

Funerary Urn with Deity

Artist: Date: ca. 6th century
Accession Number: 2014.632.2
Date: ca. 6th century Medium: Ceramic Accession: 2014.632.2 On view in:Gallery 358

Covered jar

Artist: Date: ca. 1675–1700
Accession Number: 2015.45.2a, b
Date: ca. 1675–1700 Medium: Earthenware, burnished, with white paint and silver leaf Accession: 2015.45.2a, b On view in:Gallery 749