Pre-Columbian Art :
Toltec Art : Toltec Bat Effigy Vessel
Toltec Bat Effigy Vessel - PF.4588
7.5" (19.1cm) high
x 5.125" (13.0cm) wide
Location: United States
| Photo Gallery
The Toltec civilization first gained ascendany in
Valley of Mexico around 900 A.D., after the fall
of Teotihuacan. Although their origins and early
history are obscure, the Toltecs appear to have
ancient ties to both the Mixtec and the Zapotec.
The word Toltec means “master builders” in the
Nahuatl language, a testament to the
sophistication of Toltec constructions. Their art
and architecture was highly influenced by
Teotihuacan as well as the ancient Olmec culture.
The Toltecs were technologically advanced,
capable of smelting metals. Their stonework was
impeccable as the ruins of Tula demonstrate.
archaeological site is believed to be Tollan, the
legendary capital of the Toltec civilization
referred to in a number of postconquest sources.
Their social structure was headed by an elite
class of warriors. Excavation have uncovered the
ceremonial center that included a pyramid
structure topped by a temple dedicated to the
The definition of art is complex, yet its variety
throughout the world allows us to learn about
these complexities. The art of Mexico is one of
the most variable forms of art known today. Each
region and period had its own distinct style,
allowing a certain presence to continue
throughout the many years of its stylistic
existence. This beautifully delicate piece
demonstrates just one of the breathtaking styles
that can be found in Mexico. A bat effigy, which
indicates the center portion of the vessel, stares
stoically ahead while combining sculptural
qualities and low relief. Elevated onto a simple
pedestal, the decoration remains understated,
using only geometric patterning, such as line
variation. The pedestal reveals numerous
incisions, allowing the small earthenware balls
inside to echo and reverberate when moved.
Such a device is most commonly found in
vessels, which are used for ceremonial purposes,
resonating a melodic sound that symbolizes its
function and importance within the ceremony.
The pale pink earthenware from which the vessel
is made, subtly pick up the undertones of the
piece, bringing the piece to its full fruition.
Remnants of paint remain on the outer rims of
the piece, indicating vibrant pink and blue,
reviving the vessel with brilliant color. The motif
continues around to the back of the vessel,
creating a sculptural effect, clearly intending it to
be seen from all angles. When combined, these
elements create an amazing and beautiful work
of art, one that has been able to stand the test of
time with grace and dignity while simultaneously
representing the stylistic ideas of that time.