Pataky Jaguar



Pataky Jaguar


Ceramic, Vessel


1000 - 1350 AD


Period V
Central America, Greater Nicoya, Costa Rica/Nicaragua


12 x 8 1/2 in. (30.5 x 21.6 cm)

Object Number



Successful works of art seem to balance the boldly stated with the artfully concealed or implied. This Pataky style jaguar effigy vessel from northwestern Costa Rica, created during the last few centuries before the Spanish invasions, strikes just such a balance. The powerful legs, lunging head, and graphic black patterning are nothing if not bold; they characterize in superlatives the bloodthirsty beauty of the king of the American tropics, the jaguar. Yet, while capturing certain realistic features, such as bloody fangs, the artist certainly avoided rendering the animal literally. For instance, patterning on the haunches, shoulders, and around the neck creates the look of jaguar spots by abstracting small whole jaguar figures into rosettes. Jaguar spots which are themselves jaguars subtly distill the essence of the animal.

Even more hidden is a surprising reference to the sound of the jaguar; when the vessel is moved, pre-fired clay balls in the hollow legs and mouth rattle ominously, much like the great cat's low growl. Many ancient American works of art simultaneously function as musical instruments and as shamanic statements. Here the position taken by the jaguar is a human, vertical one not possible for the animal. The front paws resting on the back legs are like the typical meditation pose of the shaman with hands resting on knees. Therefore, this image shows not just a jaguar but a transformed shaman in his/her animal form as an aggressive, roaring jaguar.

Credit Line

Ex coll. William C. and Carol W. Thibadeau


Seeing with New Eyes: Pre-Columbian Art from the Thibadeau Collection, Emory University Museum of Art and Archaeology, March 4 - October 13, 1992|
MCCM Permanent Collection Reinstallation, September 2002 - June 2012|
'For I am the Black Jaguar': Shamanic Visionary Experience in Ancient American Art, Michael C. Carlos Museum, September 5, 2012 - January 5, 2013|
MCCM Permanent Collection Reinstallation, February 09, 2013 - Present
Pre-Columbian Art from the Collection of Paul A. Clifford and William C. Thibadeau (Atlanta: High Museum of Art, 1971), plate xxiii.|
Pre-Columbain Art in Southern Collections: September 9 - October 28, 1979 (Huntsville: Huntsville Museum of Art, 1979).|
Michael C. Carlos Museum Handbook (Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 1996), 80.|
Rebecca Stone-Miller, Seeing With New Eyes: Highlights of the Michael C. Carlos Museum Collection of Art of the Ancient Americas (Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 2002), 108, figure 222.|
MCCM Newsletter, September - November 2002.|
Rebecca Stone-Miller, "Human-Animal Imagery, Shamanic Visions, and Ancient American Aesthetics," RES 45 (2004): 57, figure 8.|
MCCM Newsletter, September - November 2009.|
Michael C. Carlos Museum: Highlights of the Collections (Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 2011), 73.|
Maxwell Anderson, The Quality Instinct: Seeing Art through a Museum Director's Eye (Washington DC: American Association of Museums Press, 2012).|
MCCM Newsletter, Fall/Winter 2012.|
Rebecca Stone, The Jaguar Within: Shamanic Trance in Ancient Central and South American Art (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011), 108-109, figures 5.18 - 5.21.|
Promotional brochure for ArtStor Shared Shelf, 2016.|
Promotional conference banner for ArtStor Shared Shelf, 2016.


© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2013.
This image is provided by the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University, who retains all rights in it. This image is made available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined by United States law. For all other uses, please contact the Michael C. Carlos Museum Office of Collections Services at +1(404) 727-4282 or Users must cite the author and source of the image as they would material from any printed work, but not in any way that implies endorsement of the user or the user's use of the image. Users may not remove any copyright, trademark, or other proprietary notices, including without limitation attribution information, credits, and copyright notices that have been placed on or near the image by the Museum. The Museum assumes no responsibility for royalties or fees claimed by the artist or third parties. The User agrees to indemnify and hold harmless Emory University, its Michael C. Carlos Museum, its agents, employees, faculty members, students and trustees from and against any and all claims, losses, actions, damages, expenses, and all other liabilities, including but not limited to attorney’s fees, directly or indirectly arising out of or resulting from its use of photographic images for which permission is granted hereunder.

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“Pataky Jaguar,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed September 18, 2020,

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