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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Art of Costa Rica : Terracotta Sculpture of a Couple Carrying a Bowl
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Terracotta Sculpture of a Couple Carrying a Bowl - PF.4092
Origin: Costa Rica
Circa: 500 AD to 800 AD
Dimensions: 11" (27.9cm) high x 20" (50.8cm) depth
Catalogue: V22
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Terracotta

Location: United States
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Costa Rican ceramic vessels were primarily made as ritual objects connected with burial practices. There is a ceremonial aspect to many such objects, with figures ornamented as if for a funeral of an important person. In this wonderful vessel we see a man and a woman carrying a boat. Both figures are covered in rich and complex body paint or ritual tattooing. The designs are distinctly different in each, and represents a form of language through symbols probably related to mythology. In effect their bodies are like a scroll or mural where a story can be read by those versed in their meaning. The couple may be real people involved in a ritual act. Or, they may represent a form of primordial or ancestral couple carrying their votive offerings. The boat itself has an elegant pattern on the upper portion of slanting bars connected at the top, which forms a triangle filled with short slashes in black. On the interior along the rim is a unique pattern of squares alternating between ones with an X in red and others with a square in the upper left painted solid black. These designs, which are basically linear, are a striking contrast to the flowing curves painted on the couple's faces. The fact the man's erect penis is helping support the boat undoubtedly has a fertility connotation. Both man and woman have a regal bearing about them, especially the female who wears large earspools and a beautiful headdress. They carry the boat with apparent ease, staring with rapt attention as if seeing a vision beyond the physical realm. There is something very endearing about this object, which indeed can be seen as a sculpture. It has a sort of domestic charm and at the same time an enigmatic character, as if we are witnessing a secret ritual whose meaning is shrouded in mystery- but not its power! - (PF.4092)


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