Pre-Columbian, West Mexico, Colima, ca. 300 BCE to 300 CE. An impressive figural vessel depicting a highly decorated dancer/shaman wearing a black mask that presents a dramatic visage with bold features framed by a complex headdress with a red scarf like element surrounding the mask, its tassels falling upon his shoulders, a hemispheric collar-like section behind, and a rising pom pom finial. The dancer's armor-like costume includes a girdle around the midsection, fringed long sleeves, dotted thigh coverings most likely representing jaguar pelt (signifying shamanic status - see below), leg bands, and sandals. He stands with knees slightly bent, holding a rattle and a curved horn (also symbolizing his shamanic status) in his hands. A large spout emerges from the back of the figure. Custom stand. Size: 6.625" W x 12.5" H (16.8 cm x 31.8 cm); 13.25" H (33.7 cm) on included custom stand.
The fact that this figure is donning spotted jaguar skin and holding a horn suggests that he may represent a shaman performing a ceremonial dance. Shamans are also commonly depicted with horns strapped to their foreheads in Colima sculpture. What's more the jaguar symbolized power and might throughout the Pre-Columbian world. Warriors, rulers, hunters, and shamans alike associated themselves with this king of beasts, the largest and most powerful feline in the New World. As the mightiest wild feline, its image and spotted pelts were incorporated into regal vestments speaking to the transformation of the shaman into a half-human, half-animal spiritual creature.
Provenance: private S.H. collection, Santa Clara, California, USA; Robert Dowling
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