Costumed Figure Jar

Costumed Figure Jar

AD 300-800
Culture
Greater Nicoya
Country
Costa Rica
Style/Tradition
Huerta Incised
effigy
Gift of Frederick and Jan Mayer
1993.616
. Costumed Figure Jar. AD 300-800. Gift of Frederick and Jan Mayer. 1993.616.
Dimensions
height: 8 1/2 in, 21.5900 cm; width: 4 1/4 in, 10.7950 cm; depth: 4 7/8 in, 12.3825 cm
Department
Mayer Center, Art of the Ancient Americas
Collection
Art of the Ancient Americas

Costumed Figure Jar
Belén Incised style
About A.D. 700–1350
Costa Rica, Greater Nicoya region
Earthenware
Gift of Frederick and Jan Mayer, 1993.616

This tripod jar portrays a human being wearing an elaborate costume and mask, probably for a ritual performance. The fundamentally human character of the figure is evident in his upright pose, five-fingered hands, and ears. The face has a crocodilian protruding snout with interlocking teeth and raised nostrils, but incisions and ridges around the edges show that this is a mask. A grinning animal head positioned below the rump forms a tail and also serves as one of the tripod supports. Like the mask, the tail must be a component of the human being’s costume or disguise. Incised into the surface of the body are intricate patterns representing costume elements with decorative borders.

The very large eyes and short, narrow snout of the mask are not naturalistic features of either crocodiles or caimans. Perhaps these traits are intended to emphasize watchfulness or vision, rather than attacking or devouring.