Pedestal Jar with Stylized Face

Pedestal Jar with Stylized Face

AD 800-1250
Greater Nicoya
Pataky Polychrome
Earthenware with colored slips
Gift of Frederick and Jan Mayer
. Pedestal Jar with Stylized Face. AD 800-1250. Earthenware with colored slips. Gift of Frederick and Jan Mayer. 1995.441.
This object is currently on view
height: 13 3/8 in, 33.9725 cm; width: 11 in, 27.9400 cm
Mayer Center, Art of the Ancient Americas
Art of the Ancient Americas

Egg-shaped Pedestal Jar
Pataky Polychrome style
About A.D. 1000–1350
Nicaragua, Greater Nicoya region
Earthenware with colored slips
Gift of Frederick and Jan Mayer, 1995.441

Pataky Ploychrome ceramics were highly coveted goods in ancient Costa Rica.  Manufactured in the Rivas region of Nicaragua, these showy vessels have ovoid or pear-shaped bodies, creamy white slip base coats, and painted decoration in orange-red, black, and gray-brown.  Great care was necessary to pack and transport Rivas-made ceramics southward (probably by boat and/or on the back or human carriers) without damage.  The nearly pristine condition of this jar suggests that it received little active use before being placed in a Costa Rican grave as an offering, likely filled with food or drink for the deceased.  

The image repeated in the band around the jar’s mouth is a profile human head wearing an elaborate feather-ornamented panache.  Around the base is a line of crouching felines: curiously, four of the felines are inverted, but one is right side up.  Inverted designs are not uncommon on the pedestals of Pataky jars, implying that they were expected to be viewed upside down.  But the undersides of the jars’ pedestals are never decorated or even neatly finished.  Perhaps liquid was poured from the jars with a grand flourish, emptying them in one gesture.  In any event, the anomalous orientation of the one feline on this jar’s pedestal is unlikely to indicate an error on the part of the highly skilled painter.

Exhibition History
  • "Pre-Columbian Art of Costa Rica: From the Collection of Jan and Frederick R. Mayer" — Clara A. Hatton Gallery, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, 2/(?)/1977-3/4/1977
  • Maxwell Museum, Albuquerque, NM, 10/12/1977-5/30/1978)
  • "Time and Technology: Scientific Approaches to Costa Rican Prehistory" — University Museum, University of Colorado-Boulder, 9/15/1985-1/26/1986
  • "Prehistoric Art and Archaeology of Costa Rica"— Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center, Pueblo, CO. 1/12/1990-2/24/1990