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Quetzalcoatl the Feather-Serpent

(World of an Object)

Basalt sculpture, depicting one of the most important Aztec deities (Mexico, 2nd half of XV cent.), was acquired in 1841 in South Mexico near the city of Papantla by baron Friedrich von Karwin, leader of complex expedition organized by St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences. Expedition was carried out for money from holders of specially issued shares. Among shareholders were: Botanic garden, Zoological, Ethnographical, Mineralogical, Botanical Museums of Academy of Sciences, Moscow and Vilna Medical-Surgical academies, headquarters of mountain engineer corps, Kazan University. Most of exhibits were lost in several shipwrecks, but the sculpture of Feather-Serpent was one of few survived ones. In 1842 the exhibit was received by the Emperor’s Hermitage, and in 1842 it was given to Kunstkamera.

Aztec god Quetzalcoatl (“Serpent, covered with precious green feathers of bird Quetzal”) – creator of the world, mankind and culture, lord of elements, god of Morning Star, patron of priesthood and science, was one of the most popular gods in pantheon of pre-Hispanic Central America’s peoples since Olmec age (XII-VI B.C.). In Aztec mythology Quetzalcoatl also figures as terrestrial ruler of Toltec capital Tollan. He is kind and wise, but his eternal rival Tezcatlipoca finally defeats him, and good Quetzalcoatl is forced to escape to the East, beyond the sea. He promised to return, that’s why Aztecs first mistook Spanish conquistador for returned Quetzalcoatl.

Author of exhibition’s concept is a Honoured Science Worker, Doctor of Historical Sciences, main scientific officer of Department of America MAE RAS Rostislav Vasilievich Kinjalov.

Exhibition is prepared for international forum “St. Petersburg – window to Ibero-America”, organized by Institute of Latin America RAS in honor of 300 year anniversary of St. Peterburg. The speech of Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Republic of Guatemala Mr. Luis Alberto Padilla is expected on exhibition’s opening.

The exhibition has opened on Aprin 12, 2003.

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