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Figure Emerging from a Waterlily

Arts of the Americas

On View: American Identities: A New Look, American Art Galleries, 5th Floor, The Americas’ First Peoples, 4000 B.C.E.–1521 C.E., 5th Floor
Images of human beings emerging from flowers represent a special class of Maya figurines found primarily on Jaina Island, just off Mexico's Campeche coast, a place that may have functioned as a major funerary center. Jaina figurines are among the most intricate and detailed ceramic works produced in pre-Columbian America. In this exquisite example, a slender, youthful male rises in an attitude of calm authority from a water-lily pod. Because the water lily is associated with the underworld in Maya cosmology, this figurine may have been intended to symbolize the renewal of life after death.
MEDIUM Ceramic, pigment
  • Place Found: Campeche, Mexico
  • DATES 600-900
    PERIOD Late Classic Period
    DIMENSIONS 8 1/4 x 2 1/8 x 1 11/16 in. (21 x 5.4 x 4.3 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
    CREDIT LINE Dick S. Ramsay Fund
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Maya. Figure Emerging from a Waterlily, 600-900. Ceramic, pigment, 8 1/4 x 2 1/8 x 1 11/16 in. (21 x 5.4 x 4.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 70.31. Creative Commons-BY
    IMAGE overall, 70.31_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION The delicately modeled ceramic figurine is Jaina in style and reveals the upper part of a figure emerging from a water lily. The figure is red with ornaments (necklace, earrings, and headdress) in cream color. The tip of the headdress is blue. There are other trace amounts of blue on the stem and petals of the flower. The figure's arms are folded across the waist. The flower has three pointed petals: one is in the front-center section, turned downward, exposing the inside texture of the lily that is handled with an application of clay dots; a second stands upward in the back, enveloping the figure; and a third stands upward on the proper left side of the lily. Because the water lily is associated with the Underworld in Maya cosmology, this figurine may symbolize the renewal of life after death. Condition; good; there are two repaired breaks in the stem and two repaired breaks in the headdress. There are also two broken edges at the proper right side of the blue central portion of the headdress, probably where two appliquéd segments had been attached.
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