Standing male figure with butterfly, jaguar and bird emblems

Unknownc. 200 - 500 AD

Reading Public Museum

Reading Public Museum

A butterfly in the headdress and one painted over the face of a jaguar on this sculpture demonstrate that the art and culture of Gulf Coast Veracruz was dominated by central Mexico’s first great civilization, Teotihuacan (150 B.C.-A.D. 700). Butterflies were symbols of dead warriors at Teotihuacan, and one thousand years later the Aztecs believed one part of the soul actually was a butterfly or bird. The jaguar butterfly is a symbol of the night, death, and royalty, depending on the context, and resembles fearsome butterflies with jaguar mouths in Teotihuacan art. The staff, kilt, and loincloth could represent those of a long-distance merchant trader, but knotted bands on each wrist symbolize ritual bloodletting, and suggest this figure represents a human sacrifice, perhaps chosen to ensure a good trading expedition.

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  • Title: Standing male figure with butterfly, jaguar and bird emblems
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: c. 200 - 500 AD
  • Physical Dimensions: 23.25"h x 17.75"w x 4.75"d
  • Type: sculpture
  • Medium: slipped and painted earthenware
  • Culture: Upper Remojadas I Culture, Veracruz, Mexico
  • Credit Line: Gift, Dr. Luther Brady, M.D