Pair of Figure Vessels

Date: 1200–1500

Geography: Mexico, El Chanal area

Culture: Nayarit

Medium: Ceramic

Dimensions: H. 9 5/8 x W. 8 1/4 in. (24.4 x 21 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Containers

Credit Line: Purchase, Louis V. Bell Fund, 1993

Accession Number: 1993.16.1, .2


Between the third century B.C. and second century A.D., the people in the west Mexican state of Colima buried their honored dead with sculptural ceramic vessels in the form of human and animal figures. In the same region in later centuries, ceremonial vessels were given simpler form with a strong emphasis on polychrome surface decoration. This pair of male and female figure vessels, said to have come from the site of El Chanal in Colima, combines the early with the later tradition. Both vessels have large flared openings in back of their necks. From humplike protuberances on their backs project long-tapering spouts. The surfaces are covered with red slip and embellished with detailed red-on-cream designs. The flat, square faces with hatchet noses appear masklike and bear different motifs, while the crescent headdresses with horns are identical. The female figure holds a child that looks up to her, and has legs that wrap around her waist.