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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Mayan Cylindrical Vases : Mayan Polychrome Cylindrical Tripod Vessel
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Mayan Polychrome Cylindrical Tripod Vessel - PF.6277
Origin: El Salvador
Circa: 300 AD to 900 AD
Dimensions: 3.5" (8.9cm) high
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Style: Mayan
Medium: Terracotta

Location: UAE
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Painted onto the sides of this short, slightly elevated tripod cylindrical vessel, in a stunning polychromy of rich red, orange, and black hues, is a scene, repeated twice, depicting a seated man resting in front of a slanted platform. Judging from his fanciful feathered headdress, and the finely rendered furnishing details of the table, we can safely assume that this is no common individual, but a high ranking member of the Maya elite, perhaps a king, shaman, or scribe. One interpretation of this scene is it depicts a shaman kneeling before an altar, praying to the gods above. This interpretation is reinforced by the purpose of this vessel, likely used in the ritual consumption of the sacred chocolate-based drink of Mesoamerica. However, when one analyzes the scene further and discovers the blank, frustrated look on the face of the figure, we are reminded of something else: a writer or artist staring at a blank page or canvas, clueless, waiting for inspiration to strike. Might this be and ancient Mayan scribe in the midst of an episode of writer’s block, struggling to find just the right words to describe the exploits of his mighty king? Perhaps then this vessel was used as an offering cup at the temple of some unknown Mayan muse that presided over the affairs of artists. If this is the case, surely this determined figure could use a sip himself. - (PF.6277)


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