Skip Navigation

Figurine of a Nobleman with Detachable Headdress

Arts of the Americas

On View: Arts of the Americas Galleries, 5th Floor
The use of animal imagery to support divine rule and convey military strength was common among the ancient Maya, whose Classic period dated from 250 to 900 in a region that encompasses modern-day Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, and portions of southern Mexico. This small ceramic figurine of a nobleman has a removable serpent-headed headdress decorated with the precious and sacred tail feathers of the iridescent-green quetzal bird, which is associated with the feathered-serpent deity Kukulcán. The ceramic vessel displayed here features a procession of eleven military victors following a naked, bound prisoner. Each warrior wears a tie-dyed textile, a trophy head suspended from his belt, and an animal headdress that may represent his warrior society.
MEDIUM Ceramic, pigment
  • Place Found: Mexico
  • DATES 600-900
    DIMENSIONS figure (a): 6 1/2 × 3 1/4 × 2 1/2 in. (16.5 × 8.3 × 6.4 cm) mask (b): 4 1/2 × 4 1/2 × 1 1/2 in. (11.4 × 11.4 × 3.8 cm)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
    ACCESSION NUMBER 2009.2.19a-b
    CREDIT LINE Gift in memory of Frederic Zeller
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Solid figurine (Jaina style) of a Maya lord (a) with an elaborate, detachable mask-headdress (b), wearing elaborate garments and ornaments that are painted blue, red and white. A wide collar and pectoral hang down his chest. Over this is a large and long necklace from which hangs a skull. The strands of the necklace wrap around to the back. A smaller necklace lies closer around his neck. His skirt is segmented and painted alternating blue and red. There is a large decoration on his left sandal. His arms are decorated with wide bracelets. The mask consists of a helmet decorated with long feather plumes.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Arts of the Americas Galleries, 5th Floor
    Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome any additional information you might have.