Sunday, January 30, 2005

The Sacrifice of the Jaguar Baby

One of many astounding vases from the Mayan kingdom by an unknown but brilliant ancient artist. Recently, an exhibition of the Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya was held here in San Francisco. It was not widely publicized but I imagine that those who attended early soon whispered to their friends: "This is something you must see." The exhibition was crowded, people gathering around to see the masks of the old Mayan kings and queens.

One small cylinder in particular (second link in the link above) I loved. The scene shows a reclining king, indolent, with ghastly long fingernails. Surrounding him are his court attendants, painted dwarfs and hunchbacks whom the Mayan royalty had a fondness for. The scene is gorgeous and surreal, both a painting from a work of fantasy and yet a frozen looking-glass into the past. I also love how the small green dwarf seems to be holding up a huge mirror for the king. Mirrors were consulted as Oracles. The nearby pots are full of chocolate, the drink of the Mayan court (and one of many things then unavailable to the kings of Europe.)

There are more vase paintings here. Most are drawn from the larger Kerr collection here.

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