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Lot 69: 1950s Panamanian Textile Mola - Vampire Bat
07 November 2016
Louisville, CO, USA
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Central America, Panama, San Blas Islands, Kuna / Cuna, ca. 1950 CE. A finely crafted example of this folk art form created by the Kuna / Cuna Native American women artisans of Panama depicting a vampire bat or chupa de sangre (literal translation being sucks blood) with outspread wings, extended claws, and an expressive visage comprised of diamond-shaped wide-opened eyes and embroidered stitches representing teeth and fangs. The mola is comprised of many layers of fabric in brilliant hues of red, black, orange, blue, pink, green, and yellow with topstitched embroidery in colorful threads detailing the face and wings. At the top of the composition is a border with the letters "MRCU MURIELAGO" perhaps intending to spell out "murcielago" meaning bat. According to Parker and Neal, "Bats, the familiar murcielagos or raton viejos of Latin-American life and literature, are well known in San Blas and are often used creatively in folktales and on molas. At night tiny oil lamps are kept burning in Cuna huts to prevent the evil chupa de sangre or vampire bat from entering and attacking the occupants." (Ann Parker and Avon Neal, "Molas: Folk Art of the Cuna Indians" New York: Crown Publishing, p. 87) At the bottom of this Mola are two panels with additional lettering, "nr s (sideways)" and "efm" - perhaps representing a name or perhaps a simple experimention with letters as many creators of molas learned the alphabet but had little formal education. Quite an impressive example, replete with superb artistry, technique, and highly symbolic iconography. Size: 13" L x 16.5" W (33 cm x 41.9 cm)
Provenance: Ex-private Robert & Marianne Huber collection, Dixon, Illinois, collected in San Blas Islands Panama, 1973
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Condition Report: Some of the fabric has separated as shown, but the imagery is still quite vivid.