View full screen - View 1 of Lot 4. Olmec Greenstone Figure of a Supernatural, Middle Preclassic, circa 900 - 300 BC.
4

Olmec Greenstone Figure of a Supernatural, Middle Preclassic, circa 900 - 300 BC

Estimate:

40,000 - 60,000 USD

Property from an American Private Collection

Olmec Greenstone Figure of a Supernatural, Middle Preclassic, circa 900 - 300 BC

Olmec Greenstone Figure of a Supernatural, Middle Preclassic, circa 900 - 300 BC

Estimate:

40,000 - 60,000 USD

Lot sold:

37,800

USD

Property from an American Private Collection

Olmec Greenstone Figure of a Supernatural

Middle Preclassic, circa 900 - 300 BC


Length: 5 1/4 in (13.5 cm)

Excellent condition, intact, lovely ancient polish overall. Very good carving details.


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.

Robert and Marianne Huber, Dixon, Illinois
Peter G. Wray, Scottsdale (inv. no. 611-W), acquired from the above on July 15, 1980
Richard Manoogian, Grosse Pointe
Sotheby's, New York, May 14, 1991, lot 121, consigned by the above
The Merrin Gallery, New York, acquired at the above auction
American Private Collection, New York, acquired from the above in 1991
Michael D. Coe, ed., The Olmec World: Ritual and Rulership, Princeton, 1996, p. 212, cat. no. 106
The Art Museum, Princeton University, The Olmec World: Ritual and Rulership, December 16, 1995 - February 25, 1996; additional venue: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, April 14 - June 9, 1996
This slender and fluidly carved amulet is a subtle yet powerful depiction of one of the primary deities of Olmec mythology, the Olmec Dragon. One of the most potent of the composite deities in the Olmec pantheon, the supernatural dragon combines attributes of creatures from the land, sea, and sky, combining caiman, jaguar and eagle. The dominance and agility of these creatures within their natural domains are key elements to the potency and agency of the deity. The Olmec Dragon is intimately connected to agricultural fertility and life-giving water.

The primary image of this amulet is of the low slithering or floating crocodile, with a large, undulating, ribbon-like snout, as if rearing into action, terminating in a flat snout of tightly curled nostrils. An incised pupil lies within the recessed eye, hooded by the characteristic back-swept flame-brows; fangs descend from the line of the lower jaw. The forelegs are carved in low relief and tightly bent with incised markings suggestive of the hand- paw-wing motif curving onto the lower body; the rear legs are incised and a row of chevrons along the spine represent the scutes of the saurian. 

The Olmec Dragon is represented in various mediums including greenstone, Preclassic ceramics and larger basalt stone monuments, attesting to the importance of this iconic hybrid as a power symbol within Olmec ideology.

For the important Tlapacoya ceramic vessel of this deity, see Elizabeth P. Benson and Beatriz de la Fuente, eds., Olmec Art of Ancient Mexico, Washington, D.C., 1996, p. 193, cat. no. 29. For a basalt carving of the head of the dragon, see Peter David Joralemon, "The Olmec Dragon: A study in Pre-Columbian Iconography" in H. B. Nicholson, ed., Origins of Religious Art and Iconography in Preclassic Mesoamerica, Los Angeles, 1976, p. 38, fig. 7r.

For two important greenstone dragon figures, see the jade figure from the Guennol Collection, and the figure in the collection of The Art Museum, Princeton University; in Michael D. Coe, ed., The Olmec World: Ritual and Rulership, Princeton, 1996, p. 208, cat. no. 99, and p. 208, fig. 1.