Pre-Columbian, Highlands (Chiapas, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador), Maya Late Classic Period, ca. 550 to 900 CE. A large dish with a deeply flared rim once supported by three legs (now showing losses but with some extant remains), with a highly decorated standing figure - perhaps representing a lord, shaman, or ball player - in tondo. He stands with his body facing front, his head turned toward the right, and his hands making dance-like gestures. He wears an elaborate feathered headdress, a large earspool, a beaded necklace, wrist cuffs, leg bands, and an elaborate belt with a dotted area possibly representing spotted jaguar pelt. His face is classically Mayan, with a prominent nose and a very long, sloping forehead, representing beauty ideals that real Mayan lords purportedly cosmetically altered themselves to achieve. Surrounding this central portrait is a narrow band of pseudo-glyphs followed by a larger band adorning half of the rim. A series of striated frets further adorns the underside of the rim. Size: 12.75" W x 3.5" H (32.4 cm x 8.9 cm)
The Maya Classic phase is so named because it was the peak of their artistic and cultural achievements. Part of this, as in many societies, included highly specialized consumable goods. Elaborate plates like this one were designed to be instantly distinguishable from those used for everyday eating or drinking - not just in decoration, but also in quantity produced, making these a much rarer find than a piece of domestic pottery. Painted Mayan pottery like this was used for feasting, ritual purposes, and as prestigious gifts given to emphasize the power of the giver and bind the recipient to them through a form of purchased loyalty. For example, Maya kings and queens might have given them to local governors. The artists who created them were also often considered to be minor royalty or nobility, especially those who knew how to paint glyph, as scholars believe that literacy was reserved for the Mayan elite.
Provenance: ex-private Florida USA collection
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