This kneeling male figure comes from the
Guanacaste-Nicoya polychrome tradition, the
galo polychrome style. Its mirror-bright
burnished surfaces are technically unsurpassed
by any Pre-Columbian pottery, and yellows, reds,
oranges, creams, maroons, and blacks of the
polychrome decorations are impressively vivid.
Among such sculptures are the full human
figures with elaborate representations of tattoos
or body paint. Such brilliant polychrome
tradition represent an important social
dimension; when the northern trade network
that brought jade, slate-backed pyrite mirrors,
foreign ceramics, and other luxury goods, the
Nicoyans responded by producing their own
special purpose pottery. Inspired by northern
models, it also incorporated local and southern
elements, forming a dazzling hybrid style that
was traded around Central America and southern
Meso-America in the centuries to come.
Elaborately decorated with colors and patterns,
this sculpted male holding a cup is kneeling in a
humble but dignified position. A fine example of
galo polychrome figures, he provides a wealth of
ethnographic detail because of the realistic style.
His flat headdress, facial decoration, and body
painting or tattooing are all vividly shown.
Elaborate patterns on his chest, arms, and legs
accentuate the sculptural beauty, as well as
suggesting the ritual function of the figure.
Perhaps such distinctive body painting pattern,
for example his black ears, fingers and toes, had
a specific ritualistic meaning. Holding a small
cup, which once possibly contained a powerful
potion, this man appears humble and yet strong,
like a priest in the midst of a ritual offering.