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Photo Credit: © Dumbarton Oaks, Pre-Columbian Collection. Photography by Joseph Mills.

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Polychrome Vase with Mythical Scene


Maya, Late Classic
650/750-900 CE
18.42 cm x 15.88 cm (7 1/4 in. x 6 1/4 in.)
ceramic
PC.B.203

On view


Permalink: http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info/22804

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Description
The creation of this vessel involved a reserve technique that began with a plain, cream-white slip that covered the exterior of the entire vase. Most of the painted scene was outlined on this surface and then carefully covered with a reserve material that was removed after applying a thick yellow-orange slip. This method left the figures standing out markedly against the apparent background. Additional colors— red, black, brown, and gray—were added, both over the original designs and over the yellow-orange slip.
The three hieroglyphic captions—one horizontal near the rim and two vertical near the base—remain largely unreadable, with the exception of the bar-and-dot numerals eight and seven that appear as coefficients for the two signs in front of the deer.
The vessel boasts two scenes. The larger scene portrays two white-faced figures flanking a deer covered by a black mantle that has repetitive crossed-bones designs. A bird hovers over the deer, and its claws touch the animal’s ear. In addition to its own ears, the animal has what appears to be a human-shaped ear that is pierced by an oddly shaped element, perhaps an antler. The two humans’ bodies are marked with black, hatched spots. The men are likely hunters, judging from their spears and animal headdresses—a peccary and a badly eroded head with reptile features.
The smaller scene shows two small deer seated in human fashion on either side of a tree. Two characters sit back-to-back on the tree branches and wear stiff-looking white capes. Standing beside the tree, yet another character holds spears and a conch-shell trumpet; he is almost a mirror image of the figure behind him. The hand gestures of the two characters seated in the tree—a wrist raised to the forehead, with the hand extended forward—denote lamentation, perhaps consonant with the mortuary symbolism of the deer mantle. In fact, all the characters on the vessel are essentially identical, with white faces and multiple black, crosshatched spots on their bodies.


Bibliography
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. 16, cat. 78.

Benson, Elizabeth P. 1967 The Maya World. Crowell, New York. p. 65.

Benson, Elizabeth P. 1977 The Maya World. Revised ed. Crowell, New York.

Bliss, Robert Woods 1947 Indigenous Art of the Americas: Collection of Robert Woods Bliss. National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian institution, Washington, D.C., p. 28-29, 136-137, cat. 137.

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. 258, cat. 135, pl. LXXX, LXXXI

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. 258, cat. 135, pl. LXXX, LXXXI

Christensen, Erwin Ottomar 1955 Primitive Art. Bonanza Books, New York. pl. 13.

Coe, Michael D. 1989 Hero Twins: Myth and Image. In The Maya Vase Book: A Corpus of Rollout Photographs of Maya Vases, Justin Kerr, ed., pp. 161-184. vol. 1. Kerr Associates, New York. p. 175, fig. 22.

Cordy-Collins, Alana 2010 The Sacred Deer Complex: Out of Eurasia. In Adventures in Pre-Columbian Studies: Essays in Honor of Elizabeth P. Benson, Julie Jones, ed., pp. 138-158. Pre-Columbian Society of Washington D.C., Washington, D.C., p. 150, fig. 10.

Danien, Elin 2006 Paintings of Maya Pottery: The Art and Career of M. Louise Baker. FAMSI online version. fig. G1, G2.

Gordon, G. B. and J. Alden Mason (EDS.) 1925-1943 Examples of Maya Pottery in the Museum and Other Collections. The University Museum, Philadelphia. pl. LIV, LV.

Kerr, Justin 1989 The Maya Vase Book: A Corpus of Rollout Photographs of Maya Vases 1. Kerr Associates, New York. p. 175, fig. 22.

Kerr, Justin n.d. Maya Vase Database: An Archive of Rollout Photographs. URL: <http://www.mayavase.com/>. cat. K2785.

MacLeod, Barbara 1989 819-Day-Count: A Soulful Mechanism. In Word and Image in Maya Culture: Explorations in Language, Writing, and Representation, William F. Hanks and Don S. Rice, eds., pp. 112-126. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City. p. 114-115, fig. 8-2a.

Marini, Pamela 1992 Pre-Columbian Art in the Bliss Collection. Historian 55 (1):31-36. p. 33.

Mason, John Alden (ED.) 1943 Examples of Maya Pottery in the Museum and Other Collections, Part 3. The University Museum, Philadelphia. pl. 54, 55.

Morley, Sylvanus G. 1927 Un Jarro Maya Pintado. Forma I (5):22-24.

Morley, Sylvanus Griswold 1946 The Ancient Maya. Stanford University Press, Stanford. p. 420.

Morley, Sylvanus Griswold 1947 The Ancient Maya. 2d ed. Stanford University Press, Stanford. pl. 89b.

Morley, Sylvanus Griswold 1956 The Ancient Maya. 3d ed. Stanford University Press, Stanford. p. 404-406, pl. 93b, fig. 93.

Morley, Sylvanus Griswold, Robert J. Sharer and George W. Brainerd 1983 The Ancient Maya. 4th ed. Stanford University Press, Stanford.

Pendergast, David M. 1966 The Actun Balam Vase. Archaeology 19 (3):154-161. p. 160.

Pendergast, David M. 1969 The Prehistory of Actun Balam, British Honduras. Royal Ontario Museum. Art and Archaeology. Occasional Paper, 16. Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. p. 41-52, pl. 5.

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. 16, 390-393, pl. 74, fig. 14, 215.

Pohl, Mary 1983 Maya Ritual Faunas. In Civilization in the Ancient Americas: Essays in Honor of Gordon R. Willey, Alan L. Kolata, Richard M. Leventhal and Gordon R. Willey, eds., pp. xiv, 487. 1st ed. University of New Mexico Press; Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Albuquerque; Cambridge, MA. fig. 3.2.

University of Pennsylvania Museum 1985 Expedition, the University Museum Magazine of Archaeology/Anthropology: Special Issue on the Discovery of Maya History. 27, no. 3. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. cover.



Exhibition History
"Ancient American Art", Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA, April - June 1942; M. H. De Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, CA, July - August 1942; Portland Museum of Art, Portland, OR, September - October 1942 (catalogue # 143).

"Indigenous Art of the Americas", National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, April 1947 to July 1962.


Acquisition History
Formerly in collection of Enrique Cámara, Merida, Yucatan.

Purchased from Earl Stendahl, Los Angeles (dealer), by Robert Woods Bliss, July 1941.

Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, Washington, DC, 1941-1962.

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


Animals | Deer | Mayas