A Costa Rican Jade Bat, Classic Period, ca. 300 - 900 CE
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The delicate, almost paper-thin speckled green jade carved into the form of a bat with fully extended trapezoidal wings, a triangular head, small pointed ears, and two hanging feet, two small holes on either side of the head for suspension.
Stone objects of this general shape are known to have come from an area stretching from southern Mexico to Venezuela and the Antilles in South America and the Caribbean. Their greatest concentration, however, is in the Tairona region of northwestern Colombia. Large numbers of finely crafted stone objects were excavated at Tairona sites. Usually found in caches buried in vessels under house floors or those of ceremonial structures, they are often carved of attractive pieces of stone. The stone objects include beads; axes in hafted shape carved from a single piece of stone; scepters or staffs; and thin, bar-shaped pendants with two holes or a suspension tube at the center such as the objects illustrated here, which seem to be sets of ritual artifacts.
Among the present-day Kogi and Ica, direct descendants of the Tairona, similar objects are used by religious specialists and men of high status. The Kogi call the objects máxalda and use them as rattles or tinklers. Suspended in pairs from the elbows of dancers, the plaques produce sounds when striking each other. Whether the Tairona used the winged stone pendants in the same fashion is not known. Perhaps wooden versions were used and those of stone were buried in caches.
Ref: Benson, Elizabeth P. and Beatriz de la Fuente, Olmec Art of Ancient Mexico, Washington: National Gallery of Art, 1996, pp. 206 - 207, 232.
Dimensions: Length: 2 1/4 inches ( 5.71 cm)
Condition: Intact and in excellent condition overall with no chips, cracks or breaks. A very fine example. Custom mounted
Provenance: Mirtha Virginia de Perea (1929 - 2019) private collection of Costa Rican art. Mrs. de Perea spent her entire 48-year career with the Embassy of Costa Rica in Washington, DC, achieving the rank of Cultural Minister-Counselor and Consul after having started as a secretary. She was a devoted patron of the arts, promoting numerous local artists and sponsoring many cultural events throughout her career. She also amassed an impressive collection of Latin American art. After retiring in 1999, she became a US citizen and continued her support of the arts through her membership in the Women’s Committee of the Washington National Opera and other local groups.