Polychrome Vessel with Seated Jaguars

Polychrome Vessel with Seated Jaguars

A.D. 650-850
Guatemala, Belize
Earthenware with colored slips.
Gift of Dr. M. Larry and Nancy B. Ottis
. Polychrome Vessel with Seated Jaguars. A.D. 650-850. Earthenware with colored slips.. Gift of Dr. M. Larry and Nancy B. Ottis. 2000.307.
height: 6.625 in, 16.8275 cm; diameter: 7.125 in, 18.0975 cm
Mayer Center, Art of the Ancient Americas
Art of the Ancient Americas

Polychrome Vessel with Seated Jaguars
About A.D. 650-850
Guatemala or Belize, Petén region
Earthenware with colored slips.
Gift of Dr. M. Larry and Nancy B. Ottis; 2000.307

This vessel depicts two jaguars divided by two wide panels of red wash painted with red stripes. The vessel's painting style suggests it was made either in the Petén region of Guatemala or nearby in Belize. Looking closely, one can make out the thin, red slip guidelines the artist used to keep his glyphs in proper alignment.

Each jaguar is seated cross-legged. One holds out his paw, palm facing down and inward, resting his other paw on his knee. The second jaguar holds one arm out, hand tilted upward, his other arm bent and tucked closely against his body. Details painted in gray are likely the result of fugitive pigment that was originally blue or green. The gray elements atop the jaguar's heads, then, represent green vegetation, identifying them as "Waterlily Jaguars," a common subject of Maya art. Around each jaguar's neck is what scholars call a "vomit bib." These garments are most commonly seen worn by figures involved in drinking rituals. These ceremonies, in which large amounts of alcohol were consumed, often resulted in vomiting and black-outs, events that were associated in Maya belief with purification, renewal, death, and rebirth.

The text that encircles the vessel's rim is, for the most part, illegible. It begins with the standard "Ay" hieroglyph (encountered above the jaguar that is shown with one paw on his knee). Of particular interest, however, are the eighth, ninth, and tenth glyphs in the inscription. These name the owner of the vessel as the Anab (an honorific title associated with subordinate lords) of the Kaloomte' of Tikal. The term Kaloomte' was among the highest of ancient Maya royal titles, apparently claiming regional influence rather than simply site-wide dominion. This inscription also helps to confirm that the vessel was originally produced in the vicinity of Tikal, a suggestion further bolstered by its painting style.

-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 provenance@denverartmuseum.org, if you have questions, or if you have additional information to share with us.

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