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Teotihuacan, Classic, general
200-750 CE
8.89 cm x 24.45 cm (3 1/2 in. x 9 5/8 in.)
Ceramic with stucco

On view


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The only bowl among the Bliss Collection’s Teotihuacan vessels, pc.b.064 is decorated inside and out, but the poor condition of the stucco complicates interpretation of its exterior motifs and makes understanding the interior design program nearly impossible. The vessel’s palette is dominated by the medium-light red background, accented by filled bands of medium blue-green and highlighted by yellow and white, with motifs outlined in white.

The outside designs consist of two sets of two alternating figures: a richly costumed frontal human figure and a frontal abstract in a similar pose. These are thought to represent two major motifs: a butterfly a deity whose headdress is crowned by a butterfly design. On the interior, remaining fragments on the base of the vessel suggest a frontal figure with an elaborate headdress. Around the interior side is a wide upper band with alternating abstract motifs, and below that, isolated symbols are arrayed against the red background.

The frontal human figure on the exterior set of figures is among the clearest images on the vessel, and has been interpreted it as an image of the Teotihuacan Goddess. The figure’s face is uncovered, and it wears large ear spools of the same size as the three disks arrayed across the lower part of the headdress. Above this is a horizontal line of rectangular plaques, and from the middle of this line rises a curved element, framed by eyes; these all seem to be edged with smaller plaques. Stylized feathers extend from either side of the headdress, and from the junction of a set of shorter and longer feathers there extend matched vertical panels with a horizontal sawtooth design, much like a serrated comb and bar, framed by the dots with which this design is sometimes associated. This set of motifs echoes similar designs on the upper band of the interior.
From just below the figure’s ears, its arms stretch out horizontally, its hands holding what may be rattle handles. A quincross symbol similar to the Maya kan cross, marks the rattles. It shares with the Central Mexican disk motif the connotations of preciousness and is also associated with Storm God insignia. The falls from the rattles bear symbols for conch shells, medallions with transverse bars; a three-part element that may represent an ornament and its plug; and a few smaller designs. Below the figure’s head is an avian head pec toral, possibly an owl, and from its beak, a falling panel contains the quincross symbol and several dots. Parallel to, and below the arms, are three horizontal lines of elements. A single scroll on either side abuts its curl against the avian head.

The alternating figure is an abstraction, a constellation of several elements presented in the human figure. Atop the “head” is the curved element that tops the human’s headdress. From either side of this extend stylized tufts of long feathers, and from them fall panels with the comb and bar design found on the human figure’s upper panels. Damage to the figure’s midsection prevents detailed interpretation of this part of the abstract, but there may be a face with features suggestive of butterfly imagery, and clearly visible are the quincross, rounded rows of plaques and at the bottom, extended horizontal panels ending with feather tufts.

The wide upper band of the interior wall bears what appears to be a simple repetition of two design motifs—rhombus with dots and serrated comb and bars—but much of the painted sur-face has been lost.
The lower band of the interior wall is heavily damaged but has a few recognizable elements. Among them are the bigotera “moustache” (or possibly the “U” motif); interlaced bands; nose pendant; and a medallion with transverse bars.

The bottom of the vessel’s interior has an extremely fragmentary figure that is difficult to interpret or even to orient correctly with certainty. The central horizontal elements form three lines that are in the same top-to-bottom order as those on the human frontal figure on the bowl’s exterior: a top row of plaques, a middle row of triangles, and a lower row of quincrosses. Running up and down the central portion of this composition is a series of semicircular sets of plaques or truncated feathers that could serve as the outline to a visage or as a necklace or pectoral. This central set of features is topped by the fragmentary remains of a feather panache.

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. 9.

Berlo, Janet Catherine 1992 Icons and Ideologies at Teotihuacan: The Great Goddess Reconsidered. In Art, Ideology, and the City of Teotihuacan, Janet Catherine Berlo, ed., pp. 129-168. Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., p. 141, fig. 14.

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. 49, pl. XXXIV.

Winning, Hasso von 1961 Teotihuacan Symbols. Ethnos 26 (3). p. 130.

Exhibition History
"Indigenous Art of the Americas", National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, April 1947 to July 1949, February 1954 to July 1962.

Acquisition History
Acquired by Robert Woods Bliss before 1957.

Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1957-1962.

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

Anthropomorphic | Eagles | Staff God|Staffed Deity|Staff Deity | Teotihuacan