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    Description

    A Pair of Olmec Birds with Long Beaks and Extended Legs
    Mexico, c. 1200-900 BC, Early Pre-Classic Period

    Carved from Pacific pearl oyster, the birds are mirror images of each other. The short wings and long thin legs suggest a wading bird, such as an egret or heron. A horizontal slot above the body might have been used to attach the birds to a headdress or headband. Each bird has a round head with a well-defined feather crest, round eye and an elongated bill with blunt tip. The neck is curved, and the body is rectangular with tail feathers that form a triangular ruff with squared end. The elongated leg has clearly defined upper and lower parts and small feet. Fine carving and incisions were used to outline crest, wings, tail feathers and details on the body. The eyes originally had inlays, probably iron ore. In good condition, assembled from three or four original parts, the fixative visible on verso.

    The Snowy Egret inhabits the Guerrero coastline of Mexico year-round. Avian motifs, whether in full-scale versions or in abstract forms, were an important component of the Olmec representational system. Rulers donned the Bird Monster (Harpy Eagle) headdress and mask and wore feathered capes as symbols of their power and authority. Other birds like parrots and ducks also appear in Olmec art. Seabirds such as the frigate, egret and the heron were associated with the sea, fish and fertility - the Underworld in ancient Mesoamerican thought.

    Provenance:
    Private Collection, New York
    Acquired by the current collection 2003
    Herbert L. Lucas, Los Angeles. Acquired prior to 1985
    Fine Arts of Ancient Lands, New York

    Exhibited:
    Denver Art Museum, 2001 - 2004
    Detroit Institute of Arts, 1985 - 2001

    Lengths: 3 ¼ each


    Condition Report*: Condition report available upon request.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    July, 2021
    14th Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 670

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