Mayan Painted Cylindrical Vessel

SKU PF.6192

300 AD to 900 AD


7.75″ (19.7cm) high




El Salvador

Gallery Location



This vessel exudes a mysterious energy, an ancient intangible potency that is as radiant today as the day it was fired. Much like we can conceive of spirits haunting the earth after their bodily demise, ancient spiritual powers continue to inhabit certain sacred object long after the civilization that created them has faded away. This cylindrical container is certainly one such object. The outer surface of the vessel has been decorated with two tiers of charming animal scenes. On the upper register, a spotted jaguar sits, arched backwards as if chasing his tail. His split tongue protrudes from his mouth, suggesting that he may be in the act of cleansing himself. The painter of this vessel has masterfully captured the texture and pattern of the jaguar’s distinctive coat with a series of hash marks and black spots. In between the jaguars, two smaller creatures are interspersed. Facing downwards, this animal may be either a bird swooping towards the earth or a fish swimming under the sea, and out of the grasp of the jaguar. The lower banister depicts two snails interspersed with decorative mat motif panels. The shell elegantly spirals and the long neck of the snail protrudes outwards. The head of the snail is painted as if more a serpent than a mollusk. This masterful work of ancient Mayan pottery must have played a vital role in a long forgotten ceremony. Its importance is reflected both in its tremendous craftsmanship as well as the glyphs that adorn it. Found in the tomb of an ancient ruler or dignitary, this vessel was as essential to the ancient Mayan in the next world as it was in this one.

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