This zoomorphic vessel depicting a bat/crocodile
image 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, and creams.
Maroons, and blacks of the polychrome
decorations are impressively vivid. Among such
sculptures are the vessels with symbolic
zoomorphic appliqués and patterns, representing
various deities. 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.
Supported by large feet and legs, this
magnificent vessel radiates with its bright colors.
The legs are decorated with patterned marks,
possibly representing signs of a crocodile. The
upper part of the vessel is intricately sculpted,
depicting an appliqué image of a bat/crocodile
with its "wings" spread. The stylized "wings" are
outlines with black paint, and the face of the
figure is placed within the rectangular form. The
face seems to be a crocodile/bat, two animals
that are often shown in Costa Rican art. Both
creatures were revered and worshiped as deities,
and accordingly, the figure is depicted with an
elaborate headdress. The "wings" form the
container portion and we wonder what this
vessel once held. The vibrant, colorful vessel
seems to bring the ancient magic and mystery to
us in an instant.