Dramatic in appearance, this incensario is a
superb example of modeled alligator ware, from
the Guanacaste-Nicoya region of Costa Rica.
Traditionally, this type of ceramic is neither
finished with a slip nor burnished to a high
sheen. Rather, it is embellished with elaborate
hand modeling as seen in this striking
incensario. The most compelling element of this
incensario is the figure that sits atop the lid.
Here we see a fantastic reptilian creature
composed of two dramatic alligator heads that
project from either end of a stocky alligator
body. Explosions of spiky crests surround each
head and snout like nimbus, adding a
mythological quality to the alligator images.
Raised nodules around the rim of the vessel and
below the top, reminiscent of the scutes on an
alligator's hide, add to the overall reptilian
imagery of the incensario, enhancing its spirited
power and energy. The Ancient Costa Ricans had
tremendous admiration for the alligator, for this
powerful animal embodied the desired qualities
of strength and tenacity. Here we see these
qualities manifested in a powerful work of art, its
reptilian imagery emanating a compelling force,
one that we are instantly drawn toward and
delight in experiencing.