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This yoke is of standard proportions and was both probably recarved from earlier plain-surfaced version. This practice of reuse was common throughout the Classic period in the central regions of the Gulf Lowlands, but it was especially popular in the Late Classic period and in the south-central Gulf Lowlands. In some cases, such reworking led to ornate designs or the filling in of blank spaces between already existing features. Many yokes, and some palmas, were initially unadorned; usually of hard stone, the yokes were polished on the principal exterior surfaces. The blank palmas, often of softer and grittier basalt, were not. Frequently motifs were added, perhaps by a different sculptor. Occasionally it appears that a much older yoke, plain or embellished, would be encountered by chance and altered to fit the current tastes of style or motif.
The mottled green color of the segmented yoke PC.B.036 is within the palette range favored for such sculptures, especially in the south-central Gulf Lowlands. Ten segments on the exterior surfaces formalize or embellish the sculptor’s division marks. Carving a motif on the curved and slanting sides of a yoke apparently required establishing a control grid. An analogous polished yoke with notches and carvings, reportedly from underwater offerings at Arroyo Pesquero in the Southern Gulf Lowlands, is at the Princeton University Art Museum.
This yoke takes the division principle further by deepening and extending partition marks to produce a gadrooning effect extending outward from an interior ridge. A similarly marked yoke, but with poor surface preservation, was encountered at El Zapotal in the south-central Gulf Lowlands. Nevertheless, the yoke from the Bliss Collection has a decidedly unfinished quality about it, as if the commissioner had died and the sculptor hurriedly polished the existing surfaces before it was interred as an offering. Such divisions also suggest that there were formulas for the spatial elaboration of even the most common motifs.
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. 19, cat. 88.
Bliss, Robert W. 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. 236, cat. 22, pl. XIII.
Bliss, Robert W. 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. 244, cat. 22, pl. XIII.
"Indigenous Art of the Americas", National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, August 1949 to July 1962.
Purchased from Earl Stendahl, Los Angeles (dealer), by Robert Woods Bliss, 1948.
Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1948-1962.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, DC.