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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Avian Effigy Vessels : Avian Effigy Vessel
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Avian Effigy Vessel - PF.4321
Origin: Costa Rica
Circa: 1100 AD to 1500 AD
Dimensions: 18.75" (47.6cm) high
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Terracotta


Location: United States
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Description
It is always exciting to come upon an object created by a master craftsman, particularly when the object seems to have been made with a dual purpose in mind. This amazing vessel not only has a turkey as its obvious theme, but also seems to embody the bird in form and content. It is really quite massive in structure, life-like and virtually to scale of a gobbler. The head is remarkably detailed, using abstract designs to represent realistic qualities. The bird's neck is especially clever with cross-hatching to show shading and the wrinkles in the skin. The bulbous center portion of the vessel makes a perfect body, with wings and front legs painted with wonderful expression and considerable skill. However, the upper portion tells a different story. We see three men in the act of paying homage to two serpents. One figure is standing carrying a bowl filled with an offering. The snake lifts up in front of him, its fangs exposed, as if ready to strike. In the center a man is kneeling, wearing an animal mask. His bowl emits steam, or perhaps incense. The third figure waves a wand with feathers attached at a snake seen in the act of retreating. The three images probably represent the same individual and can be read from left to right, depicting a shaman in three stages of ritual overcoming the serpent- either in the spirit sense or actually ridding a region of snakes. Two ellipses in bold orange may hold the key- the one on the right is above the snake, symbolic of the serpent's presence on earth; while at the end, after the successful completion of the ceremony, the ellipse is underneath, showing where the snake will return to the depths of the earth. Whatever the exact meaning, seeing this small painting on a vase allows us to be part of a secret rite performed in a vanished age. - (PF.4321)

 

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