Pre-Columbian, Central Mexico, Aztec, ca. 1200 to 1500 CE. Skillfully carved from bone (flat pieces likely harvested from skull plates), a hybrid jaguar/serpent creature comprised of a large, expressive, wild feline head with an openwork eye, an open mouth revealing sharp fangs, and a curled rear crest followed by eight pieces perforated with holes for attachment and/or suspension that make up the sinuous body. This creature is incredibly rare and replete with layers of iconography. Not only were the jaguar and the serpent significant animals in the Pre-Columbian world, but Tezcatlipoca's ( the central deity of the Aztec religion) animal counterpart or nagual was the jaguar, and he was oftentimes depicted with his right foot replaced by a snake. So perhaps this piece is a reference to this deity who was associated with the earth, night sky and winds, beauty, sorcery, war, power, and divination. Size: 8.5" L x 3.25" H (21.6 cm x 8.3 cm); 4.625" H (11.7 cm) on included custom stand.
The jaguar symbolized power and might throughout the Pre-Columbian world. Warriors, rulers, hunters, and shamans alike associated themselves with this king of beasts, the largest and most powerful feline in the New World. A nocturnal animal, the jaguar sleeps in caves and dark places and creeps quietly in the forest, evoking great mystery. Snake/serpents provide a fascinating element of Pre-Columbian iconography as they were regarded to be a beneficial source of nourishment and at the same time quite deadly with their poisonous venom. Also important to the indigenous was the fact that snakes shed their skin annually thus rejuvenating themselves and serving as symbols of renewal and good health.
Provenance: private Denver, Colorado, USA collection
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Bone pieces show expected desiccation, areas of encrustation, mineral deposits, and minor nicks to edges commensurate with age.