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Effigy Vessel in the Form of a Jaguar

Arts of the Americas

This Maya effigy vessel depicts the head and torso of a hunchback human figure wearing a full jaguar-skin costume. Small teeth are visible near the fangs, and hands appear above the paws. Hunchbacks and dwarves were highly respected among the Maya, frequently serving as attendants to rulers. Like the jaguar-skinned dancers depicted on cylindrical vessels, this figure may be impersonating the God of the Underworld, with the scarf around his neck symbolizing human sacrifice and death.

Esta vasija efigie Maya representa la cabeza y torso de una figura humana jorobada vestida completamente con la piel de un jaguar. Pequeños dientes son visibles al lado de los colmillos, y manos aparecen sobre las garras. Los jorobados y enanos eran muy respetados entre los Maya, frecuentemente sirviendo como asistentes de los gobernantes. Como los danzantes vestidos con piel de jaguar representados en vasijas cilíndricas, esta figura puede estar imitando al Dios del Inframundo, con el pañuelo alrededor de su cuello simbolizando sacrificio humano y muerte.

MEDIUM Ceramic, pigment
DATES 400–500
DIMENSIONS 7 x 4 1/4 x 3 in. (17.8 x 10.8 x 7.6 cm) mount: 7 1/2 × 4 1/2 × 3 3/4 in. (19.1 × 11.4 × 9.5 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
CREDIT LINE Gift in memory of Frederic Zeller
PROVENANCE Prior to 1970, provenance not yet documented; by 1970, acquired by Guy Puerto of Mérida, Mexico; 1970, purchased from Guy Puerto by Frederic Zeller of Sag Harbor, NY; 1994, gift of Frederic Zeller to Susan Kennedy Zeller of Sag Harbor, NY, by inheritance; 2009, gift of Susan Kennedy Zeller to the Brooklyn Museum.
Provenance FAQ
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Small effigy vessel in the form of a jaguar figure with red and brown spots/markings and paws in the front. The vessel opening is in the figure's back, which appears to be hunchbacked. The figure appears to be a man wearing a full jaguar skin because small human-size teeth are visible in the mouth near the jaguar's fangs and human hands are depicted above jaguar paws. There is a small hole at the top of each arm. This piece probably dates from the Early Classic period and may be from the Peten or highlands of Guatemala (cf. Linda Schele and Mary Ellen Miller, The Blood of Kings, Fort Worth: Kimball Art Museum, 1986, plate 39, pp. 148 and 160). Condition: painted surface abraded, particularly on the head.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Maya. Effigy Vessel in the Form of a Jaguar, 400–500. Ceramic, pigment, 7 x 4 1/4 x 3 in. (17.8 x 10.8 x 7.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift in memory of Frederic Zeller, 2009.2.11. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2009.2.11_overall_PS11.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 2009.2.11_overall_PS11.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2022
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Maya. <em>Effigy Vessel in the Form of a Jaguar</em>, 400–500. Ceramic, pigment, 7 x 4 1/4 x 3 in. (17.8 x 10.8 x 7.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift in memory of Frederic Zeller, 2009.2.11. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2009.2.11_overall_PS11.jpg)