Figure Seated on a Throne
Unknown artist, Popayán, Cauca River Valley, Colombia. Figure Seated on a Throne, Before 1500 CE. Slip-painted ceramic, 15 x 9 x 12 ½ inches. Denver Art Museum Collection: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Edward M. Strauss in memory of Alan Lapiner, 1977.62.
Figure Seated on a Bench
Before A.D. 1500
Colombia, Cauca River Valley
Earthenware with slip
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Edward M. Strauss in memory of Alan Lapiner, 1977.62
One of the most impressive known examples of Colombian ceramic art is a seated male figure from the Popayán region of west-central Colombia. Stools were important symbols of rank among the pre-Columbian societies of Central America, northern South America, and the Caribbean. The figure’s commanding pose, elaborate headdress and shield, and gold necklace together suggest an individual of wealth and power. The huge hands and firmly planted feet imply strength, solidity, and capacity for action. His swollen calves reflect the use of ligatures (bands) tied tightly below the knee and at the ankle. Amazonian peoples today use ligatures to strengthen muscles. The crested, lizard-like creature clinging to the figure’s back recalls the animals that often rise behind monumental carved stone figures at the site of San Agustín, in Colombia’s Magdalena River valley. Such creatures may represent protective spirits or alter egos.