Pendant: frog with serpent in mouth

800–1200 CE
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General Description

Among the societies of Central America, gold ornaments were important symbols of power and prestige that expressed authority and status in life and in death. Made to be suspended around the neck, gold pendants were still worn by local inhabitants of the Caribbean coast when Europeans encountered them at the turn of the 16th century. The image on this gold pendant is flattened and bilaterally symmetrical for maximum decorative effect. Although not visible from the front, suspension loops are located on the reverse on each side of the base of the head—craftsmen thus cleverly adapted the natural forms of totemic creatures to the functional demands of this jewelry.

Frogs, birds, and alligators were likely mythic figures, as in South America. For many peoples of the ancient Americas, frogs, like other amphibians, were also symbols of fertility and life, associated both with the underworld from which they emerge and water in which they live. A bi-cephalic serpent emerges from the mouth of this frog, and the spirals, tiny blobs of gold, and delicate lip of gold on the frog's mouth are probably water symbols. Frogs were intercessors between water and land, and when represented in gold, such as this example, they are even more powerful.

Adapted from

  • Bonnie Pitman, ed., "Pendant with two frogs (1976.W.292), Pendant bell depicting a turtle (1976.W.301), Pendant depicting a batlike mask (1976.W.237)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 35.

  • Anne R. Bromberg, Dallas Museum of Art: Selected Works (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 1983), 45.

  • Carol Robbins, Label text [1976.W.298; 1976.W.297; 1976.W.292], A. H. Meadows Galleries.