Censer, Seated King

Date: 4th century

Geography: Guatemala

Culture: Maya

Medium: Ceramic

Dimensions: H. 31 1/2 x W. 12 1/4 in. (80 x 31.1 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Containers

Credit Line: Gift of Charles and Valerie Diker, 1999

Accession Number: 1999.484.1a, b


Perhaps the depiction of a fourth-century Maya king, this incense burner would have been used to make offerings carried by smoke to the spirits and deities in the supernatural realm. Rulers are represented in Maya art as communicators with the supernatural and the living may have sought their continued intervention after death. The use of censers bearing the royal image may have reinforced the belief that when a ruler died he became divine. This censer is composed of two parts, the base in which the incense burned and the chimney decorated with the image of the Maya lord. This bearded figure, whose body is rather schematic in presentation, perhaps suggesting an early date, sits cross-legged wearing a richly ornamented headdress and large earspools, and holding before him what may be a royal emblem.