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Carved Vase

Maya, Late Classic
650/750-900 CE
16.51 cm x 13.65 cm (6 1/2 in. x 5 3/8 in.)

On view


This carved cylindrical vessel is decorated with two panels that depict seated personages and is rimmed with a glyphic band. An incised line frames both the panels and the text, giving the pictographic panels the appearance of architectural features, such as carved door jambs. The object is unslipped but burnished on the exterior and the rim interior, thus the brown shade is the actual color of the paste, or clay. The images and glyph blocks are carved in low relief; details are incised.

The rectangular panels, which are of unequal size, are not placed precisely on opposing sides of the vase. Each panel shows a seated lord wearing an elaborate headdress, and these figures are almost identical. In the larger scene, the ruler gestures with his right hand toward a smaller figure. Most likely a dwarf of courtly status, this diminutive figure wears a beaded necklace, large circular earflare, bracelet, and cloth headdress tied with a jeweled or floral element. He presents a bowl containing a string of beads to the lord, who is dressed in a similar but longer loincloth. The ruler wears a necklace made of larger beads as well as a sizable earflare with a centrally protruding bead-and-tube component. Long quetzal plumes extending from a blossom on the snout of his serpent headdress fill the space around his head.

In the smaller panel, the individual sits atop a matted bench or throne, one foot dangling down. The two legs of the throne are marked with pendant elements, probably representing foliage, as living plants grow out of the saurian being below. The head of this creature turns up sharply before the seated figure, with its back¬turned snout touching the figure’s right wrist.

Allentown Art Museum 1972 Pre-Columbian Art of Mesoamerica: From the Collection of Jay C. Leff (Exhibited at the Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, Pennsylvania, February 13 - April 2, 1972). Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, PA. cat. 115.

Easby, Elizabeth K. 1966 Ancient Art of Latin America from the Collection of Jay C. Leff. Brooklyn Museum, New York. cat. 465.

Fairservis, Walter A., Jr. 1959 Exotic Art from Ancient and Primitive Civilizations: Collection of Jay C. Leff. Department of Fine Arts, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh. cat. 464.

Kerr, Justin n.d. Maya Vase Database: An Archive of Rollout Photographs, URL: <>. cat. K4335.

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. 376-379, pl. 70, fig. 205, 207.

Sotheby Parke Bernet, Inc. 1975 Important African, Oceanic, and Pre-Columbian Art (Sale 3792): The Property of Jay C. Leff, Uniontown, Pennsylvania. Sotheby Parke Bernet, Inc., New York. cat. 507.

Exhibition History
"Exotic Art from Ancient Primitive Civilizations, Colletion of Jay C. Leff", Carnegie Institution, Pittsburgh, PA, 10/15/1959 - 1/3/1960.

"Ancient Art of Latin America from the Collection of Jay C. Leff", The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY, 11/22/1966 - 3/5/1967.

"Pre-Columbian Art of Mesoamerica: from the collection of Jay C. Leff", Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, PA, February–April 1972

"Lasting Impressions: Body Art in the Ancient Americas" , Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, 10/1/2011 - 3/4/2012.

Acquisition History
Formerly in the collection of Jay C. Leff; Allentown PA (collector).

Purchased from Sotheby Parke-Bernet, New York (auction house), by Dumbarton Oaks, 1975.

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

Anthropomorphic | Mayas