Home > Art > Costa Rican Jaguar Metate with Monkeys in Effigy
About the Object
This metate from the Boca del Toro region of Costa Rica was carved from gray volcanic stone and has incised symbols probably representing a “mat” or other materials that might have taken inspiration from woven palm leaves. The work also displays monkey figures that have been created with arms extended, and which provide structural support to the carved jaguar.
Costa Rica, like many Intermediate Area or Isthmian cultures across Central America, developed unique and dynamic cultures while also providing the crucial role of intermediary between Mesoamerica, the Andes, and Amazonia. Metates like this object were versatile tools originally used to grind corn, other foodstuffs, and hallucinogenic substances for use in spiritual rituals. Elaborately carved metates like this example may have also been employed as “thrones” by elites that symbolized the power of these individuals over life and death, along with solidifying their position as mediators between their fellow humans and the spiritual world.
[Throckmorton Fine Art, New York, NY];
The Jan T. and Marica Vilcek Collection, 2001-2011;
Gift to The Vilcek Foundation, 2011;
Iman Issa receives the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Fine Arts for exploring, through works of various media, difficult philosophical questions, such as the individual’s relationship to places, figures, and events that are collectively familiar, or the difference between experience and recognition.
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