This powerful maskette would have been worn by an Olmec god-king as a pendant during life and buried with him at death. In this culture jadite was valued above gold as a material, for its rich blue green color symbolized all-important, life-sustaining water. The snarling mouth and babylike features are associated with a rain-giving water deity. It is rare to find a piece of gem-quality jadite this large, so the maskette would have been a highly prestigious, potent ornament suitable for a king.
Artist Olmec, Precolumbian
  • Maskette
Date between 900 and 600 BCE
Medium jade
Dimensions Overall: 4 3/4 × 3 5/8 × 2 1/2 inches (12.1 × 9.2 × 6.4 cm)
Credit Line Founders Society Purchase, W. Hawkins Ferry Fund
Accession Number 1985.42
Department Africa, Oceania & Indigenous Americas
On View Native American S1EE, Level 1 (see map)
Peter Wray.
1985-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Bulletin of the DIA 62, no. 2 (1985): 6, fig. 3.

“Family Art Game.” DIA Advertising Supplement, Detroit Free Press, May 18, 1986, p. 16 (ill.).

"Recent Acquisitions." African Arts 20, no. 2 (1987): 65 (ill.).