Object Record

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Catalog Number 01.C.65
Object Name Figurine
Title Goddess of War Figurine
Artist Unknown
Collector Joel R. Poinsett
Place of Origin Mexico
Description Black figurine of bird-like creature with knees tucked into chest and hands on knees. Left foot broken off. Marked as "Mexican."
Label Congressman Joel R. Poinsett served as a U.S. Minister to Mexico from 1825-1829 and was an avid scholar of Mexican and South American culture. Many of his objects were collected from the popular 19th-century archaeological site at the Pyramids of St. Juan outside the former Aztec capital Teotihuacan. This figurine’s anthropomorphic features are a common characteristic of Pre-Columbian art. The object may depict the Moan owl bird that foretold night, darkness, and death for both Maya and Aztec cultures. The Moan’s tail feathers resembled warrior’s spears, hence Poinsett’s identification of the figurine as a "Goddess of War". The figurine is likely a 19th-century replica of a Pre-Columbian deity since American collectors were fascinated with the unfamiliar art forms and the demand for Mexican artifacts encouraged a lucrative business of forgery.
Material Plaster (black-painted)
Dimensions H-9.25 W-4.25 D-3.625 inches
Credit line American Philosophical Society. Gift of Joel R. Poinsett, 1 April 1830.
Search Terms Native America