AVIARY CREST MASK AND FELINE HANGES OF THE...

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AVIARY CREST MASK AND FELINE HANGES OF THE...

AVIARY CREST MASK AND FELINE
HANGES OF THE "BIRD MONSTER" Olmec
culture, Las Bocas, Mexico Middle
Pre-Classical, 900-400 BC.
Serpentine
H. 15,5 cm - W. 12,4 cm
Olmec Las Bocas "Bird Monster" mask, serpentine,
Mexico, H. 6 1/8 in - W. 4 7/8 in
Provenance: Private American
Collection
Acquired by the present owner in 1995
Merrin Gallery, New York
Most of the Olmec stone masks were found in the states of Veracruz and Guerrero in Mexico and on the Pacific slope of Guatemala.
Like the masks with human features, the masks of the "Bird Monster" and the "Were-Jaguar" date from the Middle Pre-Classical period, between 900 and 400 B.C.
It should be noted that the masks that can be worn and that show supernatural beings are indeed much rarer than those represented with human features.
Concerning our "Bird Monster" mask, we can see that it combines the characteristics of a human being with those of the powerful Harpy Eagle. It is usually depicted with flame-shaped eyebrows, a rectangular or "L"-shaped eye, a straight fleshy nose with a low bridge, a large open mouth with a protruding upper lip or protruding beak, large fangs, drooping commissures and a receding, rounded chin.
The "Bird Monster" is one of the most important supernatural creatures in Olmec religious beliefs. He is the god of the sun, the ruler of heaven and the ruler of the heavenly kingdom. It is related to corn, agricultural fertility and the strange chinless dwarves associated with rain and water in Olmec mythology.
Monumental Olmec sculptures and small stone carvings sometimes depict lords wearing masks or helmets adorned with the "Bird Monster".
The second Olmec deity traditionally represented on such masks is the "Were-Jaguar".
This one mixes the features of a feline with those of a newborn baby. This god is usually depicted with drooping almond-shaped eyes, a flattened nose, a trapezoidal mouth with an upwardly flaring upper lip, toothless gums and drooping commissures. (Joralemon, 1971 and 1996).
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