ENGRAVED PLATE OF A JAGUAR MAN'S HEAD Olmec culture, Mexico Middle
Pre-Classical, 900-400 BC.
Grey-green limestone with traces of red pigment
H. 15,4 cm - L. 16 cm
Olmec round plaque with incised frontal human-jaguar head, compacted clay with traces of red pigment,
Mexico, H. 6 1/16 in - W. 6 1/8 in
Provenance: Private American
Acquired by the present owner in 1995
Galerie Merrin, New York
Jean-Louis Sonnery, Paris, active from 1964 to 1972
Aveleyra, Luis and Ramon Piña Chan, Pre-Columbian Art:
Olmec - Maya - Aztec, Edita S.A., Lausanne, Switzerland, 1996, p. 84
Graulich, Michel and Lin Crocker, Unpublished Masterpieces of Pre-Columbian Art,
ARTS 135, Boulogne, 1985, fig. 30 Olmecs
often combine feline and human traits, thus expressing the religious concept that recognized this animal as the ancestor of man. This feline represented the fertile depths of the infra-world, the region from which all that must come to life emanates and, therefore, symbolizes the earth itself.
This sumptuous engraved circular plate allows us to appreciate the features of the jaguar such as the slanting eyes, the flattened nose, the mouth and the lips whose corners stretch downwards. This "olmec mouth" evokes the muzzle of the jaguar.
Were the characteristics intended to faithfully reproduce the physiognomy of the Olmecs, or to represent an ideal type of beauty, or the appearance reserved exclusively for the representatives of a particular cult?
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