Pre-Columbian, Guatemala highlands, Mayan, Classic Period, ca. 250 to 900 CE. Finely carved in the round, a playful depiction of a coatimundi, an animal deemed sacred and magical by the Mayans. This sculpture comes with authentication paperwork from Hasso von Winning, a leading expert of Mesoamerican art who described it as follows, "Splendid stone representation of IS 'CHI 'IK or Coatimundi; the Mayans believed this creature could talk and possessed supernatural powers. This figure shows a sitting creature with rounded ears, almond shaped eyes and a very long tail pointing upwards; the creature is crouching and is graciously holding its snout with both frontal limbs." Size: 5" L x 4" W x 16.375" H (12.7 cm x 10.2 cm x 41.6 cm)
The raccoon-like coatimundi (or coati) was easily tamed, and its funny antics made it a popular pet among the ancients of the Americas. According to Peterson and Green, "The coati's foraging and playfulness help explain its close associations with agriculture and ritual clowning . . .These are celebrated by traditional cultures from the Southwest United States down through Middle America and appear to have great antiquity." (Jeanette Favrot Peterson with essay by Judith Strupp Green, "Precolumbian Flora and Fauna: Continuity of Plant and Animal Themes in Mesoamerican Art" Mingei International Museum of World Folk Art, 1990, p. 52) Known for its voracious appetite, the coatimundi was oftentimes depicted eating. In this sculpture, the adorable creature is holding his snout - perhaps as he ingests a delectable delight, or perhaps simply displaying a playful gesture.
Provenance: ex private Southern California collection; ex Milton Birnbaum collection, Los Angeles, California, USA collection; accompanied by authentication paperwork from Hasso von Winning, Ph.D. Consultant in Mesoamerican Archaeology, Southwest Museum, Los Angeles, California, USA - dated September 15, 1973.
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Nice red cinnabar deposits. Tail repaired - two pieces reattached with restoration over the break lines. Expected surface wear commensurate with age; losses to back of coatimundi, a few high point areas, and periphery of integral base.