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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Terracotta Trophy Heads : Terracotta Human Trophy Head with a Monkey Handle
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Terracotta Human Trophy Head with a Monkey Handle - PF.4492
Origin: Costa Rica
Circa: 1000 BC to 500 AD
Dimensions: 8.5" (21.6cm) high x 8" (20.3cm) wide
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Terracotta

Location: UAE
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In searching for reasons why an artistic style developed, it is sometimes more rewarding to let an object speak for itself, before placing it in an academic context. This fantastically whimsical vessel is a perfect example of how we, as viewers, can come directly in contact with an artist who lived hundreds of years ago. The entire object is a perfectly conceived whole and has a narrative as well as a visual quality. It seems to be telling us a story, a scene held in a single frame. The human face is both grinning and grimacing, both annoyed and full of mirth. The monkey figure on top has a look of utter surprise, of shock at being caught in the act of doing something wrong; and we can easily guess what that is! Are we seeing a man with his pet monkey, or something more serious? The animal may represent a spirit and the man a shaman, who must deal with capricious spirits with a combination of humor and sternness. This period of Costa Rican art saw the development of objects made for inclusion in tombs as funerary offerings. These burial sights were mainly for nobles or very wealthy individuals who could afford remarkable works of art to be buried with them presumably to be used in the next life. The artist of this vessel has added details, such as the circles of clay on the rim, which are beautifully complimented by the man's teeth and the small holes depicting the monkey's hair. This vessel seems to have been created with a definite purpose in mind, and if it was intended to amuse and delight, he has succeeded brilliantly. - (PF.4492)


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