Codex-style Vessel with Tribute Scene

Codex-style Vessel with Tribute Scene

650–850 CE
Petén Nakbe
Slip-painted ceramic
Gift of Dr. M. Larry and Nancy B. Ottis

Unknown Maya artist, Nakbe region, Petén, Guatemala. Codex-Style Vessel with Tribute Scene, 650–850 CE. Slip-painted ceramic, 4 ¼  x  3 ⅞ inches. Denver Art Museum Collection: Gift of Dr. M. Larry and Nancy B. Ottis, 2000.308.

This object is currently on view
height: 4.25 in, 10.7950 cm; diameter: 3.875 in, 9.8425 cm
Mayer Center, Art of the Ancient Americas
Art of the Ancient Americas

Codex-style Vessel with Tribute Scene
About A.D. 650-850
Guatemala, Petén, Nakbe region
Earthenware with black and red slip paint.
Gift of Dr. M. Larry and Nancy B. Ottis; 2000.308

This codex-style vase from the Nakbe region depicts two seated individuals, each gesturing toward a pile of objects before him. One figure wears a headdress composed of large flower blossoms. A fluttering hummingbird drinks the nectar of the central bloom, while a second hummingbird, wings outspread, partially obscures a second blossom on the side of the headdress. Tucked into the figure's headband is a paintbrush, clearly identifying him as a scribe. The second figure wears a similar headdress composed of large blossoms, but this lacks both the second hummingbird and the paintbrush. Nevertheless, it is likely that this figure, too, represents a scribe.

The piles before the scribes are tribute bundles. One of these is labeled with a hieroglyph. Often called a "doubled-cauac" in scholarly literature, this glyph was recently deciphered by David Stuart as the word "pik," meaning 8,000. When marking bundles, this numerical classifier appears to be specifically associated with cacao beans. The darkened circle atop the pik glyph serves as the numeral "1," specifying that this bundle contains a single count of 8,000 cacao beans. On top rests a spray of quetzal feathers, their shafts wrapped tightly together. Above these are a jade bead and two profile earflare assemblages (complete with the L-shaped plugs that would have held them in place). The pile of tribute on the other side of the vessel is composed of what appears to be a bundle of folded cloth rather than a sack of cacao beans. Atop this bundle, a spray of quetzal feathers sits beneath a dish containing what may be two shells.

The caption above the second bundle is partially erased, but contains the standard array of signs labeling the dish itself, its contents, and its owner, here given the rank of Chatahn Winik, an honorific title associated with high ranking subsidiary lords.

-Lucia R. Henderson, 2016 (hieroglyphic reading in consultation with David Stuart)

Known Provenance
Gifted 28 December 2000 by Dr. M. Larry and Nancy B. Ottis 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.