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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Pre-Columbian Masterpieces : Mayan Cylindrical Vessel
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Mayan Cylindrical Vessel - PF.3100
Origin: El Salvador
Circa: 500 AD to 900 AD
Dimensions: 9.5" (24.1cm) high
Catalogue: V15
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Terracotta


Location: United States
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Description
This masterpiece consists of one of the more complicated compositions depicted in Mayan art. The more complicated compositions include three or more actors (here we have seven!) plus paraphernalia pertinent to the event. The artist has utilized the accompanying hieroglyphic text not only for recording the depicted scene, but also as a compositional device to segment the pictorial field. The ritualized food function of vessels in the past has now been superseded by the artistic, social and political use. Whimsical and dramatic, there are seven actors richly dressed in ceremonial garments. The hand positions have definite characteristics and their elbows are reaching upward, forward, high and low. These motions are carefully and intentionally depicted by the artist. We can assume it is a ritual dance. The artist has transcended the use of two-dimensional painting. There is a feeling of flesh and movement. Due to one's perception, the ritual dance may seem to "come alive" through the movements of the characters. One character has a bird mask on and the opposite has a jaguar mask on. The animals are symbolic of the cosmological beliefs that underlie the Mayan civilization. In mythology, animals can be sentient beings who possess speech, thought and supernatural powers. Through the use of the mask, the shaman or leader not only becomes the animal, he is the animal and thus possesses supernatural powers. This ritual most probably took place in the palace for the nobility to participate and the commoners to look on from a distance. We are drawn again and again to this magical composition, compelled to further enrich "the dance" of our own lives. - (PF.3100)

 

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