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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Archive : Avian Effigy Vessel
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Avian Effigy Vessel - PF.4322
Origin: Costa Rica
Circa: 1100 AD to 1500 AD
Dimensions: 18" (45.7cm) high
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Terracotta


Location: Great Britain
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Description
It is one of the great joys of art that as observers we can enter into the thoughts of an artist through the works they leave behind. In the case of ancient art this is often a very mystifying and perplexing journey; full of secret realms, hidden meanings and paradoxes. The more complex the creation the more we are able to use our own imagination in understanding the deeper significance of an object. Costa Rican sculptures and artists in ceramic delighted in depicting animals, especially those sacred to their people- the jaguar and alligator. Just as popular were a variety of birds, particularly the parrot and eagle. This astonishing vessel represents a figure that has elements of man and bird. The head is of a parrot, fashioned with great detail. The beak is long, curved and open. Black studs show the ornamental crest of some species; the eyelids painted black also double as feathers. The most engaging aspect here are the wonderful eyes; inquisitive, watchful, with a touch of humor, given further expression in the wings reaching out jauntily from the shoulders and holding onto its sides. The hands are human, as are the feet. This leads to the conclusion that a shaman is represented in the form of a bird. Sorcerers were reputed to be able to take the shape of animals in order to commune with spirits of the lower world. The face of a man below the beak may represent the shaman in human form. A stylized bird on the back shows the universal avian character, reminiscent of ancient rock paintings. The effect as a whole holds together a single image; both phantasmagoria and yet very real, as if this shaman/bird has just landed to see what is happening in the world, centuries after it took flight. - (PF.4322)

 

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