Chocholá Style Vessel with Lord and Scribes

Chocholá Style Vessel with Lord and Scribes

700–800 CE
Yucatan Chocholá
Carved and burnished slip-painted ceramic
Accession Number
Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Unknown Maya artist, Vicinity of Chocholá or Oxkintok, Yucatan, Mexico. Chocholá-Style Vessel with Lord and Scribes, 700–800 CE. Carved and burnished slip-painted ceramic, 6 ⅜  x  6 inches. Museum purchase, 1969.283.

height: 6.375 in, 16.1925 cm; diameter: 6 in, 15.2400 cm
Mayer Center, Arts of the Ancient Americas
Arts of the Ancient Americas
This object is currently on view

Chocholá Style Vessel with Lord and Scribes
About A.D. 700-800
Mexico, Yucatan, likely the region of Chocholá or Oxkintok
Carved and burnished earthenware with remnants of red and white paint.
Museum purchase; 1969.283

This vessel is identifiable as Chocholá style, due to its sophisticated carving, complex iconography, and the self-contained nature of the scene, which does not wrap completely around the vessel. This elite ware was produced in the Yucatán peninsula during a narrow time-span, possibly lasting as little as 50-100 years. According to scholars, the production of these vessels appears to have centered around sites such as Oxkintok and Chocholá, although affiliated styles are found in a more extended radius (see, e.g., Werness, 2010). The vessel was carved when leather hard, then fired. Traces of red and white pigment on its surface indicate it was then painted in bright colors, so the object would have originally looked very different than it does today. For another Chocholá vessel in the collection, see 1986.612.

The scene is similar to other scenes encountered on Chocholá vessels. It is dominated by a central figure, sitting cross-legged and leaning to face a second figure to the left. A third figure is depicted behind him, to the right of the scene. The central figure, clearly a high-ranking lord or ruler, wears an elaborate headdress composed of a large, wrinkled vulture's head. The vulture wears a twisted paper-cloth headband and holds a bone awl in his beak. The stacked and folded items to the figure's left and right are identifiable as codices (sing. "codex"), screenfold books commonly encountered in court scenes and closely associated with the scribal arts. The figures to the left and right of the scene are subsidiary lords, likely scribes or courtly advisors. They are either shown presenting offerings or tribute to the central lord or are in the midst of conferring with him on matters of the court. The position of the figure to the left, arms crossed before the chest with hands resting on his shoulders, is commonly seen in ancient Maya art as a sign of subservience. The entire scene takes place in an interior architectural space, perhaps a room in a palace, a location suggested by the presence of cords and draperies at the top of the composition.

-Lucia R. Henderson, 2016

Known Provenance
Purchased 30 December 1969 by the Denver Art Museum. Provenance research is on-going at the Denver Art Museum. Please e-mail, if you have questions, or if you have additional information to share with us.