MASKETTE WITH INCISIONS
Mexico, La Venta, Tabasco Olmec, 900-600 BC
Pale green stone
Height: 2-5/8 inches (6.5 cm)
Width: 2-3/8 inches ( 6.2 cm)
Provenance: Edward H. Merrin, personal collection 1968; Leonard Bernheim, New York, 1973
Published: Michael D. Coe, et al., The Olmec World – Ritual and Rulership, The Art Museum, Princeton University [Princeton, 1995] p. 199, no. 85.
Exhibited: “The Olmec World – Ritual and Rulership”, The Art Museum, Princeton University, 16 December 1995- 25 February 1996, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 14 April – 9 June 1996
The Olmec prized green stones of all kinds, not just the jade that they acquired in trade from Costa Rica. Green was associated with water and with young growing corn, their major crop. Here, a different green stone was used to create a pendant. The object is carved as the face of the Olmec Supernatural, a being with human and jaguar characteristics. As is typical, the being has a cleft head, slanted almond-shaped eyes, a flat nose, and enormous mouth with everted, trapezoidal upper lip, downturned corners and a toothless gum ridge. In addition, he wears a headband with earflaps. The eyes are deeply carved with drilled pupils and the face is fleshy. With the exposed gum ridge, the impression of a howling infant is conveyed.
The two holes drilled through the top edge allowed the maskette to be worn as a pendant.