Pre-Columbian, southern Mexico and northern Central America, Mayan Territories, Late Classic period, ca. 550 to 900 CE. A large tripod cylindrical vessel, its body painted with a dramatic repeated motif that has been variously interpreted as chili peppers or feathers. Above them is a ring of repeated eagle-headdressed glyph figures, representing a lordly personnage or a god. The interior has a double ring of black just below the rim and is then painted a smooth, dark orange. A decorated cylinder vessel like this one was almost certainly used for the ritual pouring of liquid cacao, a popular drink in the Maya territories, into larger cylinders, thus producing a frothy foam on top that was the preferred way of serving it. Size: 8.5" L x 7.25" W (21.6 cm x 18.4 cm)
For the Maya, extraordinary ceramic vases like this example were gifted to elite individuals, akin to the gifts exchanged between high profile dignitaries today. Vases were a functional gift, created by artist/scribes who came from elite families and who took pains to recreate the stories of Mayan mythology and religion as well as to depict royal and godly personages in their artwork. This artwork reinforced the ruling ideology and reminded the viewer of what was valuable in Mayan society. Today, they teach us about the stories that were important to the Maya and also give us clues to how elite people lived and dressed. Scholars have painstakingly worked to decipher the meaning of the iconography and glyphs painted on cylinder jars and we know much more about them than we did even twenty years ago.
Provenance: private Lexington, Kentucky, USA collection; ex. Dr. Raymond Thomas collection
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