Pre-Columbian, Southern Mexico to Guatemala, Olmec, ca. 1000 to 400 BCE. A striking maskette hand-carved from a beautiful jade stone of milky white hues with striking mint green inclusions, created by the Olmec, the oldest major civilization in Mexico. The piece is expertly worked with graceful, subtle contours and signature Olmec traits including a jowly face, downturned jaguar mouth, and slanted eyes. The forehead appears artificially shaped, a sign of high status due to cranial deformation, as the Olmec traditionally wore tight-fitting helmets. What's more the ears were pierced, presumably for further embellishments or attaching to clothing, and the maskette is bilaterally perforated at the upper back edge for attachment. Size: 1.5" W x 1.375" H (3.8 cm x 3.5 cm); 3.625" H (9.2 cm) on included custom stand.
The attention to detail on this piece is quite impressive. Note the expressive lips and cleft palette of the jaguar mouth, the full nose with pierced nostrils, the phalange ears, and the stylized elliptical-shaped eyes. To the Olmecs, masks and maskettes like this example carried many meanings, not all of which are obvious to us today; however, scholars surmise that the blue-green colors of jade were associated with vibrant growth, renewal, and given the cyclical conception of life and death, rejuvenation after death.
Provenance: private Los Angeles County, California, USA collection
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Perforation through the right ear is broken. Small chip to back right, lower edge. Earthen or possibly red cinnabar deposits in recessed details contrast beautifully with the colors of the jade.