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Nicaraguan Pottery Designs by David Sequeira

DATES December 1, 1939 through February 4, 1940
COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
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  • December 1, 1939: Eighty large color drawings by David Sequeira from Chorotegan pottery excavated by him in Nicaragua will be shown at the Brooklyn Museum from December 1 through February 4 in an exhibition arranged by Fr. Herbert J. Spinden, Curator of American Indian Art and Primitive Cultures. Sequira is of Nicaraguan birth and primarily a musican whose interest in musical themes of the Indians induced him to study and reproduce the brilliant designs on the pre-Colombian pottery of Nicaragua identified by Dr. Spinden as superb examples of Chorotegan art.

    The drawings are circular and rectangular and will be shown in panels. The designs are in strong, warm colors, brick red, reddish brown, black and white, The artist has, in effect, transferred the patterns from concave and convex pottery surfaces to flat surfaces The patterns incorporate motives of conventionalized jaguars, crab, serpents, crocodiles, monkeys and birds, the last including the famous Quetzal which Dr. Spinden states is unusual to find represented in a culture as far south as Nicaragua. Human figures and geometrical or abstract designs both showing a strong Maya influence are also used in the patterns.

    The drawings are shown more for their interest as sound designs than for their scientific interest, which is nevertheless important, as part of the Museum’s policy of making available basic creative designs of old cultures that can he adapted to today’s needs or inspire new efforts.

    The circumstances of the preparation of these drawings are important. In the first place, they were made only a short time after the pottery was excavated while the colors were still at their full strength. The tones tend to fade when they come in contact with the air after their long burial. Secondly, the artist, to carry out the preservation of the designs as faithfully as possible, mixed his own watercolors from the kinds of materials that were probably used in coloring the pottery, usually earth colors.

    According to Dr. Spinden, in his paper presented at the 21st International Congress of Arnericanists in Goteborg in 1924, the Chorotegan Culture Area from which these designs come "is a strip of territory beginning on the humid north coast of Honduras near Ceiba, widening with the wet lands and extending southward across Nicaragua and Costa Rica to about the limits of Panama. The word Chorotegan…is of Mexican origin with some such meaning as the Driven-out People.

    “The culture in this area was built historically on Mayan ideas of the First Empire ending A.D. 630, yet the Chorotegas reached the height of their productivity on the Toltec horizon (1150-1350) and were intermediaries in trade between Mexico and Colombia.” He further states that the present tribes in this area are not of the same stock as the Chorotegans who produced the high culture.

    In the region of Northern Costa Rica and southern Nicaragua “……the culture was intensively developed, especially in pottery….. The designs are painted and modelled, with the crocodile, the monkey, the jaguar, the fish, etc. serving as motives. One peculiar type of pottery shows the use of a purplish black luster paint made from manganese ore.” It is probable that the pieces of pottery from which the exhibited designs were taken fall in this category.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1939 - 1941. 11-12/1939, 289-90. View Original 1 . View Original 2