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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Pre-Columbian Masterpieces : Copador Style Mayan Polychrome Cylinder Vase
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Copador Style Mayan Polychrome Cylinder Vase - PF.2493
Origin: El Salvador/Guatemala/Honduras
Circa: 600 AD to 900 AD
Dimensions: 7.625" (19.4cm) high
Catalogue: V8
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Terracotta


Location: United States
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Description
Mayan art was composed of a complex symbolic language with deeply important social functions. Mainly commissioned by kings and other elite figures, works of Mayan art fulfilled both political and social purposes. Because the art functioned as a type of language, to be understood by the entire population, a certain consistency in subject matter and its portrayal was necessary. While this limited the artist’s individual creativity to some degree, where one could distinguish them was in the refinement of execution, as revealed in this stunning polychrome cylinder vessel. Rendered in the mural manner, a linear style that befits the smooth vertical surface of the vase, the craftsman has artistically divided the vase into three vertical registers. The banded top register contains within it a series of Mayan glyphs that might possibly exemplify the Mayan’s calendrical expertise, for sacred scenes, such as the one depicted on the middle register of this vessel, are always accompanied by the writing of dates and constellations that mark the event. This register and the polychrome bands that form the bottom register create a natural frame for the powerful scene depicted in the middle. Here we see the main figure wearing a ferocious jaguar mask and an elaborate costume that includes jaguar skins. A procession of four standing figures, all facing the same direction, wraps around the vessel, each carrying a variety of items, while two of the figures have jaguars suspended upside down from their backs. Perhaps these four figures are in the process of presenting offerings to the main figure that stands with hands outstretched. If only these ancient images could speak, reaching across time to tell us of their ancient mystery. Alas, they cannot. However, this extraordinary vase does in some ways speak – for it communicates to us as a glorious work of art in and of itself, regardless of whether we understand the symbolic language depicted on its painted surface. - (PF.2493)

 

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