Chocholá Style Vessel with Feline Figure

Chocholá Style Vessel with Feline Figure

A.D. 700-800
Yucatan Chocholá
Carved and burnished earthenware.
Accession Number
Credit Line
Gift of William I. Lee
Chocholá Style Vessel with Feline Figure. A.D. 700-800. Carved and burnished earthenware.. Gift of William I. Lee. 1986.612.
height: 5.25 in, 13.3350 cm; diameter: 5.375 in, 13.6525 cm
Mayer Center, Arts of the Ancient Americas
Arts of the Ancient Americas

Chocholá Style Vessel with Feline Figure
About A.D. 700-800
Mexico, Yucatan, likely the region of Chocholá or Oxkintok
Carved and burnished earthenware
Gift of Mr. William I. Lee; 1986.612
This vessel is identifiable as Chocholá style, due to its sophisticated carving, complex iconography, and the visual "setting apart" of the image from the rest of the vessel with a framing device. 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). For another Chocholá-style vessel, see 1969.283.

On this chocolate brown vessel, the carving is restricted to a relatively small area, separated from the rest of the vessel by a deeply carved outline that forms a framing device (or "cartouche"). Within this cartouche is a supernatural figure. He has the head and paws of a feline and the body, legs, and feet of a human. Behind him and beneath him are the upper and lower jaws of a saurian creature, its lips marked with a row of delicate circles and scales suggested by a cross-hatch pattern. Such jaws usually represent the open maws of the earth, which would locate this scene in an Underworldly environment. The feline figure’s body position associates him with the imagery of children and infants, who take on this pose in scenes of birth and of sacrificial death. These associations suggest that this figure is either tumbling into the gaping jaws of the earth in death or emerging out of them as a newborn in birth. The left edge of the framing cartouche is formed by an abstract vegetal design, marked with jade beads, which appears to sprout from the top of the feline's head. If it is, in fact, a plant (and the cross-hatched element a leaf), it would tie this feline to the waterlily jaguars in waterlily cartouches seen more commonly elsewhere in Chocholá art.

-Lucia R. Henderson, 2016

Known Provenance
Gifted 31 December 1986 by Mr. William I. Lee to 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.