Pre-Columbian, West Mexico, Colima, ca. 300 BCE to 300 CE. A tall, striking incensario depicting a double-headed anthropomorphic figure attended by a variety of serpent and lizard-like beings. The figures stand back to back, squatting, with only two arms between them, four legs, and two sets of male genitalia. The face of one is smaller than the other, depicted with round, spool-shaped earrings, a low, ridged headdress, and wide eyes applied to either side of a giant nose. The second face is very similar in form, but he wears a much more elaborate headress, this one capped by two protruding snake heads. Behind the heads is a bowl-like hollow for holding the items to be burned. Along its sides, forming a handle, are ridgebacked lizard-like animals, their heads appearing at ninety degrees to the human faces around the bowl. The serpents' bodies twine around each other upward to the top of the handle's arc. Size: 5.2" L x 7.7" W x 15.6" H (13.2 cm x 19.6 cm x 39.6 cm)
Incense played a major role in religious practice in ancient Mexico, from the Olmec onward. Many tombs are outfitted with incensarios and the items also seem to have been used in ceremonies by the living. The incense was made from copal, tree resin from the torchwood tree. By burning copal, Mesoamerican priests made an offering to the gods - for example, during an Aztec ceremony for the god Huitzilopochtli, the hummingbird-formed god of war, priests hoped that their prayers would be carried upward along with the wafting smoke and scent.
Provenance: private D. C. collection, California, USA; D. C. is an Emmy Award winning Hollywood writer and Executive Producer, collected before 2000
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