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Post Lot Text
MAYAN POLYCHROME CYLINDER VESSEL
LATE CLASSIC, CA. A. D. 550-950
The tall vase finely painted with a mythological frieze depicting two renditions of the aged supreme deity in life and in death, Itzamna, the God of Heaven and Sun for the Yucatec Maya, the whole framed above with a stepped band enclosing stars and other celestial glyphic signs signifying the 'sky', on one side the dying or wounded deity, with characteristic hooked nose and large goggle eyes, wearing a thickly padded loincloth and complex headdress incorporating water-lily, beads and scrolls, Iztamna lies motionless on the peccary's back with head turned sharply upward, separated by a massive wood column incorporating janiform portraits of the jaguar God of the Underworld, with spotted cheeks, feathers and paper knots, a 'mat' symbol below, the second rendition shows Itzamna vigorously straddling a deer, the cervidae with one cloven hoof raised and with a human-headed vine(?) projecting from his muzzle, and gesturing to a standing aged figure, wearing a striped cape, carrying a canoe paddle, upside down, in the raised hand and pointing to a vaporous offering below, probably a personification of the Deer God, the rim encircled by the Primary Standard Sequence(PSS) dedicating the case as a drinking cup for chocolate (a beverage of the elite in the Classic period) and ends with titles for the lord who commissioned the vessel: its'at, ah-pits, sih-ya, uaxak tsuk ("the learned one, the youthful lord, the chosen one, blood member of the holy lineage"), Mayan lords were given such sobriquets rather than personal names until they became kings, in shades of orange, dark red and black.
The skillful painting of this vessel with its meticulously rendered glyphs and unusually shaded figures closely resembles the "codex" style. Although many Classic Maya myths are known from the sacred book of the Maya, the Popul Vuh, this specific anecdote of Itzamna needs to be surmised through other related ceramics. Based on other vessels, the scene depicts a myth in which the deity, who was either wounded or dying, was revived by the Moon Goddess, Ixchel, accompanied by deer, which were avatars of Ixchel. The unusual configuration of the text is apparent in the inclusion of the titular phrases which are repeated in the secondary text above the peccary along with a date which falls into the eighth century in the Mayan calendar. It is highly uncommon for a historical reference to enter a mythological scene, which might suggest that the lord who commissioned the drinking vessel identified himself with the mythology-in this case with Itzamna. Since his first title is its'at, he thus emphasized his spiritual connection to its'am-na (Itzamna).
The distinctive painterly style, the grouping of the personages: Itzamna, a deer, a peccary and the Moon Goddess, and the manner in which the PSS is treated, points clearly to a small number of vases produced in one workshop or by one artist. For the related examples see Justin Kerr's rollouts #1183, the Hero Twins Vase in Painting the Maya Universe,p.356 in the collection of the Museum of Fine Art, Boston, #1396, the Rabbit Vase(or Regal Rabbit) formerly in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Peter G. Wray and #771 a codex style vase in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.