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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Art of Panama : Cocle Polychrome Vessel
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Cocle Polychrome Vessel - PF.4486
Origin: Panama
Circa: 500 AD to 1000 AD
Dimensions: 16" (40.6cm) high
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Terracotta


Location: United States
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Description
Cocle ceramics constitute some of the highest expressions of art in Pre-Hispanic America. Around 800 A.D. a style known as Macaracas appeared, characterized by bold red, black and purple on a cream- white background. What is most fascinating is the consistency of imagery that runs through the basic designs, like an endless pattern of cloth stretching for hundreds of years, with each part significant to the whole. Form itself can possess and express symbolic significance, as can design when created for the purpose of a visual language. The ancient Panamanians believed that the vital element of the life force was essentially dualistic, inherent in the male and female aspect. This fundamental principle is reflected in their ceramic art. This delightful vessel has two basic purposes, one as a container, and the other as a sort of message in symbolic script. On the long neck we see three vertical panels. Two of them have the same design with only slight change in detail. They show a very abstract mythical creature; with eyes staring widely, an insect-like mouth and winged extensions on the sides. Separated by a thick red band they are mirror images of each other. The other panel is a simple series of three solid circles, purple on the ends with a red one in the center. This arrangement of mythical creature separated by solid circles is repeated on the upper portion of the base. Here we see the Shamanic principle of opposites reflected in alternating images circling round and round, endlessly, as does the most basic element of life, the atom, and the cosmos itself. Shamans were often artists, blending their psychic abilities in a creative act that transforms a simple object into something massive and mysterious. It is tempting to suggest that upside-down this vessel resembles a mushroom; perhaps of the hallucinogenic variety Shamans ate to see extraordinary visions- like those on this superb vessel. - (PF.4486)

 

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