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Teotihuacan, Classic, general
200-750 CE
10.48 cm x 13.34 cm (4 1/8 in. x 5 1/4 in.)
Ceramic with stucco

On view


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This vessel is decorated on either side with a frontal feline face with anthropomorphic characteristics. Felines in Teotihuacan art are frequently related to rulers, militarism, and sacrifice, as well as to agriculture and aquatic fertility. In this case, the feline face and paws are surrounded by exuberant green feathers, probably part of a headdress indicative of its status. The fanged mouth seizes a stylized heart with a down-turned eye at the top, from which droplets of blood or water emerge referring simultaneously to human sacrifice and fertility. On the sides of the vessel between the two feline faces, the same bleeding heart appears surrounded by green feathers. The lower edge of the vessel is lined with twelve low-relief, mold-made human faces wearing ear spools and head ornaments. They are covered with red pigment.

Painted cylindrical tripod vessels were used in ceremonial contexts and as burial offerings in the city of Teotihuacan as well as in other distant areas. Such vessels have been found thousands of miles from Teotihuacan, indicating the broad influence of this great city during the Classic period and the importance of such portable objects in the exchange of ideas and images across Mesoamerica. The Maya, who were contemporary with Teotihuacan, further borrowed the concept of tripod lidded vessels, modifying the canon and altering the decoration to fit their own style and iconography.

Built by hand, the vessels were fired and then decorated with a thin layer of stucco that was painted while still damp. Teotihuacan artists used a semifresco technique similar to the one used in monumental mural painting. They used the same palette of colors and a shared iconography, creating in ceramic a portable abbreviation of Teotihuacan’s magnificent mural painting (see PC.B.062).

Band, Grosses Modernes Lexikon 1982 Grosses Modernes Lexikon Band. Lexikothek Verlag GMBH.

Becker-Donner, Etta 1962 Präkolumbische Malerei. Zeit Und Farbe. 2nd Folge: Frühzeiten Der Malerei; [3]. Brüder Rosenbaum, Wien, Austria. pl. 3.

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. 3, cat. 11.

Bliss, Robert Woods 1947 Indigenous Art of the Americas: Collection of Robert Woods Bliss. National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., p. 26, 126, cat. 127.

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, New York. p. 240, cat. 48, pl. XXXIII.

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. 248, cat. 48, pl. XXXIII.

Bühl, Gudrun (ED.) 2008 Dumbarton Oaks: The Collections. Published by Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C., p. 200-1.

Ishida, Eiichir? 1962 Amerika. Sekai Bijutsu Zensh?; 24. Kadokawa Shoten, Tokyo. p. 164, fig. 42.

Kidder, Alfred V., Jesse D. Jennings and Edwin M. Shook 1946 Excavations at Kaminaljuyu, Guatemala. Carnegie Institution of Washington Publication, 561, Washington. fig. 176a.

Séjourné, Laurette 1959 Un Palacio En La Ciudad De Los Dioses, Teotihuacán. 1. en español ed. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México. p. 164, fig. 133.

Stuart, Gene S. 1988 America's Ancient Cities. The National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C., p. 115.

Exhibition History
"Indigenous Art of the Americas", National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, April 1947 to November 1952, February 1954 to July 1962.

Acquisition History
Purchased from Earl Stendahl, Los Angeles (dealer), by Robert Woods Bliss before 1947.

Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1947-1962.

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

Animals | Feathers | Felines | Headdresses|Helmets | Teotihuacan