What can you tell me about this art?
This figure comes from the Campeche coast of Mexico (along the Gulf!) and shows a male figure inside a water lily. It was likely found in a cemetery. It would have been made by hand and painted. Some of the colors are still present.
If you look closely, there's a particularly special blue color that the artist used. It's a shade of Mayan blue, a type of blue pigment used by the Classic Mayan cultures that people only learned how to replicate recently. It was quite a mystery for scholars!
Does the color represent anything?
It does! Blue was associated with sacrifice in Mayan cultures at the time. It had connotations of healing and rebirth, as well.
Any research on why water lilies are consistently funerary in many cultures?
I know that in ancient Egypt it was related to rebirth, taken from the visual of beautiful flowers growing out of the mud. In Mayan art the waterlily is also associated with the afterlife, and with living on in another realm, Xibalba, after death here on earth. In both cases the plant metaphor, relating to regrowth or rebirth, is the central reason why the symbol is used.