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Maya Jade Head Pendant of a Deity, Late Classic, circa AD 550 - 950

Property from a New York Private Collection

Maya Jade Head Pendant of a Deity, Late Classic, circa AD 550 - 950

Maya Jade Head Pendant of a Deity, Late Classic, circa AD 550 - 950

Property from a New York Private Collection

Maya Jade Head Pendant of a Deity

Late Classic, circa AD 550 - 950


Height: 2 7/8 in (5 cm)

Excellent condition, no breaks. Reverse shows a typical irregularity of the stone. Beautiful ancient polish overall.


The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot provided by Sotheby's. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colours and shades which are different to the lot's actual colour and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation because Sotheby's is not a professional conservator or restorer but rather the condition report is a statement of opinion genuinely held by Sotheby's. For that reason, Sotheby's condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot.

New York Private Collection, acquired before 1964
Gerald Berjonneau, Emile Deletaille, and Jean-Louis Sonnery, Rediscovered Masterpieces of Mesoamerica: Mexico-Guatemala-Honduras, Boulogne, 1985, p. 233, pl. 357
This pendant is carved with the face of a deity resembling the fanged mouth of the important sun god Kinich Ahau, the broad ribbon of the upper lip curls tightly above the fangs, with slightly fleshy cheeks, and provocatively hooded eyes which imbue the face with a meditative aura. The howler monkey god, patron of artisans and scribes, is also depicted with the descending curls from the mouth and heavy-lidded eyes. The face is surmounted by a high domed headdress finely carved in symmetrical relief with recessed bat-like ears and scrolling motifs; the pendant is pieced laterally for suspension.

Jade ornaments were imbued with power and symbolism for the Maya, activated by the potency of the stone as much as by the iconic carved images. Numerous quantities of jade ornaments bedecked rulers for rituals and ceremonies during their lifetime and served as talismans with everlasting power in the afterlife. No other natural substance provided the affirmation of power and legitimacy as much as jade.

"Impervious to time, it was the distilled essence of fertility and bounty made permanent. The sheer effort required to turn it into works of art - to drill and fashion the super-hard mineral [...] into jewelry, mask, and figurines - gave it incomparable value." (Mary Miller and Simon Martin, Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya, San Francisco, 2004, p. 53).