This bowl feature a seated deity framed by watery volutes. The male figure has a square, raptor-eye with brilliant, almost polished qualities; fish barbels; Spondylus or thorny oyster as an ear covering; and sharklike teeth. The swirls around the figure occur in two levels: a background of parallel swirls and a dominant design of elaborate volutes that combines attributes of water (the dots) with the triple beads linked to foliage. Flourishes at the end of the volutes evoke smoke in an exuberant, almost chaotic effusion. Bowls in a similar style suggest that the flow emanates from the figures themselves. Here, the volutes issue from the mouth of the figure and churn around the body.
Glyphs appear in an angled band, an arrangement that facilitates reading by others when the bowl is tilted for drinking. The text has no evident connection to the subject of the image. Instead, it denotes the possessor of the “thin-walled cup” (jaay), or the bowl itself. As with many Classic vessels the owner was a male “youth” (ch’ok), and he came from the city of Dzibilchaltun, fourteen kilometers north of downtown Mérida, Yucatan, or perhaps from the ruin, now largely destroyed, under the modern city itself. The name of the youth is not easily interpreted, nor is his title, which is also employed in texts at Dzibilchaltun. It is possible that the bowl simply commemorated his youthful status as part of age-grade rituals attested elsewhere in Maya texts and imagery.
To achieve the decoration, the dark-brown, burnished surface exterior was a carefully chiseled and incised. Cinnabar application draws attention to the glyphs and to areas of deeper relief.
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"I Maya", Palazzo Grassi, Venice, Italy, 9/6/1998 - 5/16/1999.
"Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya", National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 4/4 - 7/25/2004; California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA, 9/4/2004 - 1/2/2005.