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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Mayan Bowls, Plates and Vessels : Mayan Polychrome Tetrapod Bowl
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Mayan Polychrome Tetrapod Bowl - PF.2546
Origin: Guatemala
Circa: 550 AD to 950 AD
Dimensions: 5.25" (13.3cm) high x 11.5" (29.2cm) wide
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Terracotta

Location: United States
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Ancient Mayan art was composed of a complex symbolic language with extremely important social functions. Mainly commissioned by kings and other high elite, 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 Mayan artist's individual creativity to some degree, where he could distinguish himself was the detail of execution, as revealed in this extraordinary polychrome quadruped bowl. Here we see the results of a skilled potter whose ceramic technique involved not only the creation of an elegantly shaped quadruped bowl, but the novel inclusion of the head and paws of an animal, who eyes peers at us from the carinated edge of the vessel. Detailed polychrome figures, glyphs and decorative patterns on the surfaces of the vessel attest to the Mayan artist's skilled line work, a calligraphic tradition that rivals that of the Chinese. In fact, the Maya invented a brush identical in form to the Chinese brush, to fulfill the same function--as the tool for calligraphic line work in both painting and writing. Although the Ancient Mayan symbolic language on this vase may be unclear, what is known for certain is the pleasure that is experienced when we behold this remarkable and highly spirited work of ceramic art. - (PF.2546)


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