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Scarce Mayan Ceremonial Ballplayer Tripod Vessel

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Americas: Pre Columbian: Pottery: Pre AD 1000: Item # 1208597

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Apolonia Ancient Art
290 Fillmore St. #D
Denver, CO. 80206
303-321-7351 gallery

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$7865.00

Scarce Mayan Ceremonial Ballplayer Tripod Vessel
$7,865.00

This scarce piece is a Mayan brownware tripod vessel, "Teotihuacan Type", that dates circa 250-450 A.D. This Mayan piece is classified as having "Teotihuacan" artistic style, and is of the type seen in "Pre-Columbian Art, The Morton D. May and The Saint Lewis Art Museum Collections" by L.A. Parsons, New York, 1980, Fig. 133. This superb piece is approximately 8.3 inches high by 12.4 inches in diameter, and is complete with some limited crack fill/repair. This piece also has some traces of red cinnabar in the low relief molded sections of the vessel, and some minute spotty black mineral deposits. There is a black polychrome band seen below the rim, and there are raised coffee bean symbols that are seen running around the vessel at the base of the bowl. This attractive brownware piece is supported by three hollow slab feet that show an identical trophy/death head molded design, and the bowl has a molded frieze that runs around the piece. This molded frieze is divided into three sections by incised bands, and each section has an identical impressed molded design that was repeated three times. This impressed molded design shows a Mayan ballplayer on one knee, and he is wearing a yoke around his waist, along with a helmet/headdress and other regalia. There also appears to be a speech-scroll seen running away from this figure as well. He is seen bouncing a large ball off his hip/yoke, and this large ball also appears to be depicted at the moment of impact. This figure may represent the Mayan Hero Twin "Xbalanque", who was the great mythic ballplayer in the Mayan "Popol Vuh". In addition, this impressed molded design shows a standing individual/ballplayer that is seen facing the ballplayer that is seen on one knee, and this standing individual/ballplayer has a skull-like old man facial design, and likely represents one of the Mayan Death Gods of Xibalba, which is the Mayan underworld. This standing Death God is seen holding a hanging object, and this may be a handstone, "manopla", which was used in the ballgame perhaps during the serve, or it may represent a squash, which represents a severed head of the other Hero Twin, "Hunahpu". This standing Death God may represent "God L", who was also one of the principle gods of the underworld, and was known as "Lord of the Underworld". The number three is also significant regarding the Mayan ballgame, as the Maya were thought to have played the game with three principle players on each side. It is interesting to note that this piece has three legs that each depict a trophy/death head, along with the three sections of the molded frieze which each have the three identical molded impressions as noted above. There is a total of nine molded impressions, three per section, seen within the molded frieze that runs around this piece, and the number nine is associated with the Hero Twins. (See "The Sport of Life and Death: The Mesoamerican Ballgame", M. Whittington Ed., Thames and Hudson, New York, 2001, p.239, which also shows a scene which is very analogous to the scene seen on the piece offered here, and that is the Hero Twin "Xbalanque" on one knee hitting the ball with his yoke, and the standing "God L". See attached photo.) According to Linda Schele in "The Code of Kings", New York, 1998, p. 213: "Both sets of Twins (Hero Twins) confronted the Lords of Death in the ballgame, which was a symbolic form of warfare. The Hero Twins used the dance to defeat Death, and it was in the ballcourt that they resurrected their dead forebears. It was also in the ballcourt that the Maize Gods stayed after the successful Fourth Creation and the engendering of humanity. It is there that human beings must go to worship the Maize Gods." This piece was also likely ceremonial in nature, given the Mayan ballgame symbols, and may have held an offering such as a severed head, possibly from a ballplayer. The Mayan death head symbol seen on the legs of the vessel also support this theory, along with the fact that this type of piece is known as a votive offering vessel. The noted Mayan epigraphist, Dr. Mark Van Stone, has confirmed that the three legs seen on this vessel have: "a head on the leg that represents a generic trophy head" and, "his eye is closed, which suggests a captive decapitation, and his jaw is hidden by a scroll, a little like the head-variant of (Te)". This exceptional piece is scarce to rare, as most Mayan vessels of this type portray warriors and/or battle scenes, rather than a scene from the Mayan ballcourt. Another analogous vessel of this type that portrays a molded priest/warrior in flight is seen in Sotheby's Pre-Columbian Art, New York, Nov. 1991, no. 155. ($8,000.00-$10,000.00 estimates.) Ex: Private New York collection, circa 1990's. Ex: Donick Cary collection, Los Angeles, CA. Ex:


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