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Reclining Jaguar

Arts of the Americas

To the Aztecs, the jaguar symbolized power, courage, and war. The highest-ranking warriors were called jaguar and eagle warriors. Rulers associated themselves with Tezcatlipoca, or “Smoking Mirror,” a deity who sometimes took the form of a jaguar. Rulers were also depicted wearing and sitting on jaguar skins.

This sculpture, which may have adorned a military academy where jaguar warriors were trained, is an excellent example of Aztec naturalistic sculpture. Every part of the animal is carefully rendered, including the underside, where the paw pads are carved in low relief.
CULTURE Mexica (Aztec)
MEDIUM Volcanic stone
  • Place Found: Mexico
  • DATES 1400-1521
    DIMENSIONS 5 x 11 x 5 3/4 in. (12.7 x 27.9 x 14.6 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 38.45
    CREDIT LINE Carll H. de Silver Fund
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Mexica (Aztec). Reclining Jaguar, 1400-1521. Volcanic stone, 5 x 11 x 5 3/4 in. (12.7 x 27.9 x 14.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Carll H. de Silver Fund, 38.45. Creative Commons-BY
    IMAGE overall, 38.45_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Reclining grey stone jaguar. Tail curved above one hind leg that rests on the other. All parts of the animal are carefully carved with the eyes and mouth open and the jaguar's two straight paws extending in front of body. The side of the tail is partly broken; the stone is chipped in a few places, but the overall condition is good.
    RECORD COMPLETENESS Best (85%)
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