Ceramic; H. 4 5/8 in. (11.7 cm)
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.365)
This well-preserved pedestal bowl is a fine example of polychrome ceramics made during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in the Cholula area of the state of Puebla and the Mixtec region of Oaxaca. Well finished with brilliant, almost lacquerlike surfaces, the ceramic vessels feature designs in vivid orange, red, and white. Gray, dark brown, and black are also used in a style seen in the painted manuscripts of the period. These vessels were of such high quality and superior workmanship that they were used in the court of the Aztec emperor in Tenochtitlan.
Around the upper portion of this bowl are three prowling felines, their heads turned back over their slender, curved bodies. The creatures' aggressiveness is conveyed through their penetrating gaze, bared teeth, and fangs. Pointed forms emanate from under their feet, probably representing claws. Bladelike forms appear along their backbone, tail, and forearms, while one is held in an outstretched paw. These probably represent the flint knives that were used in sacrifices. The flared base is encircled by bands with step-frets, and a repetitive series of volutes, possibly indicating smoke, and nucleated disks.