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Vessel, Mythological Scene

Date:
7th–8th century
Geography:
Guatemala, Mesoamerica
Culture:
Maya
Medium:
Ceramic
Dimensions:
H. 5 1/2 x Diam. 4 1/2 in. (14 x 11.4 cm)
Classification:
Ceramics-Containers
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1968
Accession Number:
1978.412.206
  • Description

    During the eighth century the ancient Maya made numerous straight-sided ceramic vessels that were painted around the outside with elaborate, multifigured scenes. Many of the scenes were mythological in content, depicting events that took place in the underworld, the realm of the Lords of Death. Such a scene is illustrated here, in a monochrome painting or drawing in what is called the "codex style," because of its similarity to that of the few Precolumbian Maya books, or codices, that exist today. Codex-style vessels are thought to have been made in the north-central part of Guatemala's Petén Department.

    The animated scene shows a lively, dancing figure holding a long-handled axe behind him in his right hand, and a raised handstone in his left. In front of him on a monster-head altar lies a deity figure known today as Baby Jaguar. On the other side of the altar appears, also dancing, a skeletal death figure with arms outstretched. While the scene has been interpreted as one of sacrifice, another interpretation holds that it is one of celebration.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Eight glyph blocks situated in two rows immediately above baby Jaguar.

  • Provenance

    [Andre Emmerich Gallery, New York, until 1968]; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1968–1978

  • See also
    Who
    What
    Where
    When
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
310364

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