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Superb Mayan Polychrome Rattle Tripod Plate with Chaac

Pre-Columbian, Mayan Territories, Late Classic, ca. 550 to 900 CE. A bright and iconographically rich polychrome plate with the god Chaac (Chac, Chaahk) depicted in tondo, on an orange background, surrounded by red and black-outlined bands below a border containing a cross-hatched red pattern on orange and four glyphs spaced evenly around the interior rim. The exterior is unpainted, with a slightly projecting buff border, perhaps to make it easier to hold, above three low, nub-like rattle tripod legs. Size: 10.5" W x 2.45" H (26.7 cm x 6.2 cm)

Chaac (Tlaloc to the Aztecs) is the Mayan rain deity, who with his axe made of lightning, strikes the clouds and produces thunder and rain. As here, Chaac is often depicted with a long, bulbous nose and fangs in a non-human head; the body often has lizard-like scales. A large round shell serves as an ear ornament - here painted white with black fine-line geometric decoration.

The Mayan Classic Period was marked by wealthy city states ruled by hereditary nobles whose courts supported a retinue of priests and scribes whose importance and number seem to have grown throughout the period. Building on the proto-glyphs of the Olmec, they created a written language that was closely related to - and sometimes indistinguishable from - art. The glyphs here emphasize that - the faces that make up the majority of each glyph have what looks to a modern eye like a speech bubble in a graphic novel emerging from them, which probably represents a smell or sound that the glyph wants to emphasize - perhaps describing the food that the plate was made to hold.

Condition: Repaired from eight or nine mostly large pieces, with almost no evidence for repair on the painted interior of the bowl. Colors are bright and iconography is very visible, with little wear.

Provenance: Ex-private Matrisciano Collection, California

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