Pre-Columbian, Chiapas region, Mexico, Maya, ca. 7th to 9th century CE. Superb pottery head of an elite ancestor. Red earthenware still showing traces of red and white pigment, naturalistically modelled in a portrait style of an ancestral figure. Classic Maya features with almond-shaped eyes, front tooth ground into a point using a file - an ancient practice of dental mutilation that often included filing teeth to points or rectangles and the insertion of jade into drilled recesses (makes me cringe to even think of the pain!). Size: 7" W x 7.5" H (17.8 cm x 19 cm); 9.5"" H (24.1 cm) on included custom stand.
This is a masterpiece of Maya portraiture. It is, without a doubt, of Western Maya lowland origin, possibly from Palenque. The closest comparable examples to the naturalistic modeling on this earthenware example were done in stucco and adorned the architecture at places like Palenque and Comalcalco. There is a chance this example represents a female (The Red Queen) since the style of the coiffure is found with that gender in ancient Maya culture. The hollow head fragment was, apparently, attached to a large earthenware plaque or vessel wall at one time, as evidenced on the reverse. It is highly sophisticated and surely ranks as one of the finest examples of New World portraiture known. The arresting image shows a very human face with open mouth showing a single shark's tooth-like applique. This is a similar feature seen on the heads of the Sun Deity (Kinich ahau) and/or Jaguar God of the Underworld which appear on large earthenware incensarios from the ancient site of Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico. It is a deified, ancestral image.
This piece has been tested using thermoluminescence (TL) analysis and has been found to be ancient and of the period stated. A full report will accompany purchase.
Provenance: ex-Jay C. Leff, Uniontown, Pennsylvania, USA, since the 1960s, Harry Bober (relative of Leff), thence by descent to family. Exhibited and listed in the 1966 show at The Brooklyn Museum: Ancient Art of Latin America, #473.
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Very fine condition overall, once broken away from a large brazier of terracotta relief. Broken and repaired horizontally across midsection, tongue and tooth reattached.