Pre-Columbian Art :
Mayan Bowls, Plates and Vessels : Mayan Painted Terracotta Bowl
Mayan Painted Terracotta Bowl - PF.5848
Origin: El Salvador
2.75" (7.0cm) high
x 7.5" (19.1cm) wide
Location: United States
| Photo Gallery
The immediate simplicity of this bowl is striking.
Both the potted form and the decoration are
sparse and unelaborated. The basic concave arch
of the bowl is pottery at its purest. The
smoothness and flow of the bowl is even more
impressive considering that all Mayan ceramics
were created without the aid of a potter’s wheel.
The artist chose to embellish this vessel with
decorative motif that is evocative and yet
abstract. Every line and curve is essential to the
pattern; nothing is redundant or superfluous.
The interior rim has been highlighted by a series
of red and black rings. Inside, two black birds
masterfully painted appear to be standing by “V”
shaped objects evocative of a bird in flight and
perhaps representing leaves of a plant or the
pedals of a flower. Meanwhile, the exterior has
been divided into two rows. The upper row is a
frieze repeating a glyph symbolic of the hook-
nosed serpent deity painted in red and orange.
Below, there is an abstracted frieze of circles and
squares in black. While the iconography of this
bowl appears confusing and irrational to our
eyes, clearly to the Mayans there was a greater
symbolic interrelation between the motifs that
they could easily appreciate. There is a definite
power to this vessel that has slowly accumulated
over the ages. Found in a tomb, buried along
side a fallen ruler or dignitary, this vessel was as
important in the afterlife as it was in this world.