Collection online


  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Stone figure of the Aztec fire-serpent Xiuhcoatl, with with the head of a serpent, short legs finishing in claws and a curved snout. The end of the figure's tail is formed by the conventional Mexican year symbol (xihuitl): a triangle, like the solar ray sign, and two entwined trapezes.

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1300-1521
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 77 centimetres
    • Width: 60 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    See MS "Acquisitions in the Department of Antiquities since the year 1825" (in Medieval and Later Dept. Register Cupboards).McEwan 2009
    The Aztecs conceived of heat and fire in many ways. This dynamic work captures the instant when Xiuhcoatl as a sky "dragon", with clawed limbs and fanged jaws agape, strikes from on high. It embodies the potent discharge of energy that takes place when lighting as a jagged, serpentine bolt of fire plunges earthward from the heavens. The figure's tail is formed by the conventional symbol for the Mexican year ("xihuitl") comprising a triangle and two entwined trapezes. It was probably originally incorporated into a temple façade, perhaps flanking a stairway.


  • Bibliography

    • McEwan 1994 p. 11 bibliographic details
    • McEwan 2009 p. 95 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G27/od

  • Exhibition history

    1990 20 Oct-9 Dec, Japan, Tokyo, Setagaya Art Museum, Treasures of the British Museum, cat. no.208
    1991 5 Jan-20 Feb, Japan, Yamaguchi, Prefectural Museum of Art, Treasures of the British Museum, cat. no.208
    1991 9 Mar-7 May, Japan, Osaka, National Museum of Art, Treasures of the British Museum, cat. no.208

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Africa, Oceania & the Americas

  • Registration number


COMPASS Title: Stone figure of Xiuhcoatl


COMPASS Title: Stone figure of Xiuhcoatl

Image description



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