Arts of the Americas
On View: American Art Galleries, 5th Floor, The Americas’ First Peoples, 4000 B.C.E.–1521 C.E.
This elaborate lid from a ceremonial incensario (incense burner) depicts the head and torso of a warrior wearing a large headdress, nose plaque, and earplugs. He holds a bundle of spear ends in his right hand and a knife in his left. Three spear-end bundles also adorn the headdress.
In 500 C.E. Teotihuacan, in central Mexico, was one of the largest cities in the world, with an estimated population of 150,000. Teotihuacan’s culture, religion, and art spread throughout Mexico and Central America. This lid, found more than seven hundred miles away, represents a local version of the Teotihuacan prototype.
18 1/8 x 19 1/2 x 9 1/4in. (46 x 49.5 x 23.5cm) (show scale)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Danziger
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Teotihuacan style. Incensario Lid, 400-700 C.E. Ceramic, pigment, 18 1/8 x 19 1/2 x 9 1/4in. (46 x 49.5 x 23.5cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Danziger, 75.148. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 75.148_bw.jpg)
detail, 75.148_bw.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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Elaborate incensario or incense burner lid in the form of a male bust wearing a spectacular headdress with three discs, two feathered quetzal eyes and three bundles of spear ends. The figure wears large circular ear spools and a removable trapazoidal talud-tablero style nose ornament. He carries a blade-like object in the left hand and a bundle of spear ends in the right, suggesting a warrior figure. White, buff, yellow, ochre and red paint are still visible throughout the piece.
Teotihuacan-style incense burners usually consist of two basic sections: an hourglass-shaped base (missing) and an elaborate chimney lid. Incense burners from Escuintla, Guatemala generally have unadorned bases and elaborate lids. The presence of Teotihuacan-style incensarios on Guatemala's Pacific coast (about 700 miles away from the Valley of Mexico), attest to the success of Teotihuacan expansion throughout Central America. The original molds for the decorative elements were probably brought south from Central Mexico, but assembled in a local manner typical of Escuintla.
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