Property from an American Private Collection
MAYA JADE MINIATURE FIGURE LATE CLASSIC, CIRCA AD 550-950
Height: 1 ⅜ in (3.5 cm)
Excellent conditional overall. Finely carved and intact.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.
American Private Collection, acquired prior to 1984
Sotheby's, New York, November 20, 1989, lot 106
Merrin Gallery, New York, acquired at the above auction
American Private Collection, acquired from the above in 1990
Birmingham Museum of Art, long term loan, 1984-1986
The Appleton Museum of Art, Ocala, long term loan, 1986-1987
The miniature figure was carved sparing no detail to portray the aged figure of a hunchback in peaceful repose. With the left hand to his belly, the right arm is wrapped around his bent leg as he bends forward. His face shows softly parted laps and the classic aquiline nose; he is adorned with a turban, bead necklace, earrings, and knotted loincloth. Hunchback figures and dwarfs were believed to have special powers of communication. Dwarves were portrayed on fine Maya polychrome ceramics as attendants to lords in important audience and dance scenes. A dwarf figure was important enough to be the subject of this high status, jewel-like ornament.
The brilliant apple green of this pendant was the most prized color for Maya jades, symbolic of sprouting vegetation and abundant water. The Maya valued what they believed was the inherent essence of a material, imbuing the ornament and its wearer with enhanced qualities. As Houston notes “a material is never just a material. It cross-references other substances and can be seen as the outcome of hopeful transformations." (Houston in Pillsbury, Potts and Richter, eds., Golden Kingdoms: Luxury Arts in the Ancient Americas, Los Angeles, 2017, p. 83). This pendant may have been made in the Southern Highlands, near the important jade source in the Rio Grande-Motagua River valley.