This example represents a very rare type of Veracruz figural pottery from ancient Mexico, circa 466 A.D. Measures impressively at approximately 10 1/2″ tall by about 10 1/2″ long. These types (whistle vessels) are well known and documented from South American cultures, but are not common amongst Mexico/Central American Pre-Columbian Cultures. Whistle vessels like this one were created with a hidden chamber in the front figure, which has a discreet hole in the top of the head for air to pass through. A passageway connects the rear and front (figure) chambers so that when the rear/open chamber in the back is filled with a liquid (or emptied), the vessel whistles (via the hole in the top) as air escapes or fills the front chamber. The effect is impressive, adding an audible dimension to the artistic complexity of the vessel. The piece has also been commented on to resemble pre-classic maya pieces. In my opinion the piece has a very strong maya influence, if not maya.
In this example, the figure is that of the Wind Deity (as noted by the swirling painted decoration and the act of blowing/whistling implied by the figure’s cheeks and extended belly). The wonderfully modeled figure ingeniously features the whistle effect to give the impression that the deity is whistling like the wind as he is blowing it.
Importantly, this actual piece is published in Hasso Von Winning’s book “Pre-Columbian Art of Mexico and Central America”. If you have the book, this piece is published on page 204, illustration #269. It is significant that this book was published in 1968, since this serves as documented evidence of pre-1970 provenance.
This exact piece is also commented on (but not pictured) in yet another book, “The Face of Ancient America”, by Parsons, et al. On page 160 & 161, the authors show one of the only other known published examples of this type, which is of this very same style, but shows a group of 3 whistling figures on the vessel instead of only one. The author mentions the one I have and offer you here (but does not show it) and emphasizes the rarity of this type by saying: “This complexly modeled ceramic [referring to the three-headed example in that book] is almost unique, although see Von Winning 1968: item 269 for one other very comparable vessel, but with only a single modeled front figure [which refers to the exact one I am offering here]”.
Condition: Repaired with minor restoration over exterior breaklines (breaklines remain visible inside the vessel), covered with ample root marks and mineral deposits. Pigment wear, but lots of original detailing remaining. Ancient damage remains visible to the tip of the spout. Three small holes present from the TL test that was taken for the piece. One on the bottom of the piece and two underneath the bowl on the back.
TL Tested – Last fired 1550 years ago, dating the piece to the early classic period, 466 A.D. TL test will be included with the piece.
Provenance: Former Alfred Stendahl collection, published in Hasso Von Winning’s book “Pre-Columbian Art of Mexico and Central America” in 1968. Also mentioned in the book “The Face of Ancient America”, by Parsons.