Bird-Headed Figure Whistle

Date: 8th–9th century

Geography: Mexico, Mesoamerica, Veracruz

Culture: Veracruz

Medium: Ceramic, pigment

Dimensions: H. 20 1/4 x W. 9 1/2 x D. 5 3/4 in. (51.4 x 24.1 x 14.6 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Musical Instruments

Credit Line: The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1963

Accession Number: 1978.412.80

Description

This freestanding ceramic figure represents a mastery of Veracruz decorative style and a spirited, improvisational use of form. An attitude of power is conveyed by a wide stance, outward extended elbows, and hands placed upon hips. Opposing the solidity of this posture is the floating, asymmetrical form of a fantastic horned and feathered serpent projecting from the head of the masked human figure or bird-headed anthropomorph. This figure wears an elaborate collar and a loincloth with a panel decorated with an abstract design that can be read as a splayed anthropomorphic figure. The broad collar that caps the figure's shoulders possesses a central element and is incised along its edge to depict a fringed border. Panels of scrollwork and interlaces and bands of repeated motifs characteristic of the art of Veracruz appear in relief on surfaces throughout the composition. The figure is actually a whistle and its musical function and the creative, whimsical compositions that inform the object give it an air of ceremony and celebration.

Related