Pre-Columbian, Mexico and Guatemala, Peten Basin, Maya Late Classic Period, ca. 550 to 950 CE. An incredible jar with a round, fitted lid, standing on four rattle legs. The body of the vessel is shaped like a round building, with a slanting, overhanging shoulder and a slightly flared base. The spout of the vessel rises from the center of the shoulders, perfectly cylindrical, with an unpronounced rim. The fitted lid flares outward at the top, with a mushroom-like form. The top of the lid is painted, while the rest of it is buff. The body of the vessel, including the interior of the spout and the full exterior, is painted with a variety of detailed iconography. Size: 5.4" W x 7" H (13.7 cm x 17.8 cm)
Orange-red bands border the top of the spout, the bottom of the neck, the rim of the shoulder, the base, and the outward-facing side of each foot. The shoulder has three repeated patterns in a thick orange-red line, symmetrical motifs with crosses at their centers and four spirals, one extending into each quadrant around each cross. The feet are perforated twice in a regular pattern to allow the rattles to sound. The lid of the vessel is painted with a design that looks like an opening eye, with a round, dark red iris surrounded by swirling bands of red, cream, grey, orange, and black, each demarcated by a thin black line.
Around the body are two similar motifs, one on each side, that show a saurian figure: Chaac. Chaac (Tlaloc to the Aztecs) is the Mayan rain deity, who with his axe made of lightning, strikes the clouds and produces thunder and rain. As here, Chaac is often depicted with a long, bulbous nose and fangs in a non-human head
The Peten region was one of the most densely populated regions in the world during the Maya period, home to several million people and many powerful urban areas, each with their own style of distinctive artwork. They left behind ceramics as dedicatory caches when building monumental and other public structures and residential communities, both of higher and lower statuses - so it was a very widespread practice. They also placed a variety of offertory jars into tombs. In some cases, these jars were filled with food and drink explicitly given to the gods. In other examples, as at the Temple of the Hidden Jars at the late Postclassic site of Ixlu, Peten, jars were filled with soil, perhaps to represent the earth with all its agricultural possibilities. Many caches, especially from the Peten region, include lidded jars, whose lids some researchers have interpreted as representing the sacred Sky of Creation above the earthly body of the jar.
Provenance: private Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA collection; ex-Sarasota, Florida, USA private collection
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Intact, with excellent remaining pigment. One area of staining on the shoulder/spout that seems to indicate that the piece lay on its side with liquid pooling in that area. Slight wear and losses to the pigment.