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Picture Plaque

Maya, Late Classic
650/750-900 CE
13.97 cm x 8.57 cm x 1.59 cm (5 1/2 in. x 3 3/8 in. x 5/8 in.)

On view


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Known as Nebaj-type objects or picture plaques, works such as this one depict a seated frontal figure with face in profile surrounded by a cartouche or mask and scroll borders. On this piece, the frontal, cross-legged figure sits within a carefully delineated cartouche, with his head turned toward his left shoulder rather than to the right, as is more common. He wears an elaborate plumed headdress and a bell-shaped topknot jewel through which his hair flows. His other jewelry consists of simple circular earrings, wristlets and anklets—made, in part, of tubular beads—and a bar pendant, which hangs on his chest. The figure’s left arm is extended, breaking the frame of the cartouche, and two small pellets fall from his hand, something that might be interpreted as the act of sowing maize.

Below the cartouche is the image of a long-lipped reptilian creature with a large square eye and forehead curl. The animal’s profile is interrupted by breaks in the lower left area of the plaque. A similar profile head with upturned curl can be seen on the upper right side of the object, outside the cartouche and above the extended left hand of the figure.
The object was broken and repaired, and cracks are visible throughout with notable losses on all edges, especially along the top and bottom left. The piece is drilled through horizontally near the upper edge.

Benson, Elizabeth P. 1963 Handbook of the Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art. Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, D.C., p. 13, cat. 55, pl. 55.

Bliss, Robert Woods 1957 Pre-Columbian Art: The Robert Woods Bliss Collection. Text and Critical Analyses by S. K. Lothrop, Joy Mahler and William F. Foshag. Phaidon, London. p. 252-253, cat. 118, pl. LXVIII.

Bliss, Robert Woods 1959 Pre-Columbian Art: The Robert Woods Bliss Collection. 2nd ed. Text and Critical Analyses by S. K. Lothrop, Joy Mahler and William F. Foshag. Phaidon, London. p. 260-261, cat. 118, pl. LXVIII.

Easby, Elizabeth K. 1961 The Squier Jades from Toniná, Chiapas. In Essays in Pre-Columbian Art and Archaeology, Samuel K. Lothrop, ed., pp. 60-80. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., p. 67, 73-74, fig. 6c.

Gallenkamp, Charles 1985 Maya, the Riddle and Rediscovery of a Lost Civilization. 3rd rev. ed. Viking, New York. pl. 63.

Gallenkamp, Charles and Regina Elise Johnson (EDS.) 1985 Maya: Treasures of an Ancient Civilization. H.N. Abrams in association with the Albuquerque Museum, New York. p. 139, fig. 67.

Masuda, Yoshio 1981 Kodai Amerika No Isan. Shinch?sha Kodai Bijutsukan ; 14. Kabushiki Kaisha Shinch?sha, Tokyo. pl. 38, box cover.

McVicker, Donald and Joel W. Palka 2001 A Maya Carved Shell Plaque from Tula, Hidalgo, Mexico. Ancient Mesoamerica 12 (2):175-197. fig. 9c.

Pillsbury, Joanne, Miriam Doutriaux, Reiko Ishihara-Brito and Alexandre Tokovinine (EDS.) 2012 Ancient Maya Art at Dumbarton Oaks. Pre-Columbian Art at Dumbarton Oaks, Number 4. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C., p. 250-252, pl. 42, fig. 146.

Exhibition History
"Indigenous Art of the Americas", National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, November 1952 to July 1962.

"Maya: Treasures of an Ancient Civilization", American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY, 5/1 - 7/28/1985; Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA, 8/28 - 11/3/1985; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX, 12/15/1985 - 2/16/1986; Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada, 3/23 - 6/15/1986; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Fine Arts, Kansas City, MO, 7/20 - 10/15/1986; The Albuquerque Museum, Albuquerque, NM, 11/16/1986 - 2/8/1987.

Acquisition History
Purchased from Earl Stendahl, Los Angeles (dealer), by Robert Woods Bliss, July 1952.

Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1952-1962.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, DC.

Anthropomorphic | Mayas