Pre-Columbian, Mayan Territories, Honduras, Ulua Valley, ca. 550 to 900 CE. An exquisite polychrome pottery cylinder, finely painted in hues of red, orange, and chocolate brown on a black ground, with an impressive iconographic program comprised of a large register that features five figures donning elaborate headdresses and ornate ball-game type regalia and holding baton-like sceptors or ritualistic implements in each hand - two of the figures also presenting round fruits or ball-like forms, perhaps cacao bean offerings or references to the Mayan ballgame. One of the figures is larger than the others; this difference in scale may indicate his higher social status. He is presented in a composite profile pose with his head in profile and a frontal torso. Beyond this, the artist captured the figures' dynamic movements and dance-like motions with extended and bent limbs. Above is a narrower registers of repeated glyphs representing deities or symbolizing environmental forces. For the Maya, extraordinary painted ceramic vases like this example were gifted to elite individuals, akin to the gifts exchanged between high profile dignitaries today. Size: 7.25" in diameter x 8" H (18.4 cm x 20.3 cm)
According to Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education scholars Dorie Reents-Budet and Ronald Bishop, "Today, when high-profile foreign dignitaries visit the White House, they can expect to attend grand dinners and to receive gifts, often custom-made by the best artists in the country. The gifts honor the visitor and showcase the giver's fine taste. In the days of the Classic Maya (A.D. 250-900), state-level gift-giving was little different, and no gift reflected more meaning or artistic expertise than the painted ceramic vase. Twenty years ago, the hieroglyphs, images, and even origins of these extraordinary vessels were little known. Now, advances in decipherment and chemical technology have made these vases invaluable for exploring the economic, political, and social exploits of the Maya. The vases, used both to serve food at feasts and as gifts presented at such events, were created by highly skilled painters who had mastered the intricacies of Classic Maya religious mythology, ideology, and history, and used hieroglyphic writing as both communication and visual poetry. Artists were highly regarded and often members of elite families." (Archaeology Archive, Vol. 56,Number 2, March/April 2003, abstract)
Provenance: Ex-Seattle, WA collection, acquired over 25 years ago
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