Singing Priest or God

Mexico, Valley of Mexico, Teotihuacán culture
Early Classic period (A.D. 250–600)
c. A.D. 400–600
Fresco
23 11/16 x 43 1/2 in. (60.2 x 110.5 cm)
AP 1972.16
Currently On View
The city of Teotihuacán, located about thirty miles northeast of Mexico City,was the capital of the first classical civilization of Mesoamerica, dating from around the first to the seventh century A.D. Teotihuacán was an urban and ritual complex eight miles long with a number of buildings on the main avenue, including the second largest pyramid in Mesoamerica. Both the residential and ceremonial structures were characterized by “slope-and-panel” profiles on their platforms and terraces, and were decorated with elaborate polychrome wall frescoes. The frescoes were arranged in orderly sequences depicting ritual images that appear to represent ceremonies in which specific favors were sought from the gods. In this richly symbolic mural fragment from Teotihuacán, a priest or god costumed in an elaborately plumed headdress performs a ceremony involving the scattering of incense while singing. The object of the ceremony seems to center on the glyphlike symbol to the left, depicting five maguey spines thrust into a stack of reeds. In all likelihood this is a place name. The officiating figure holds an incense bag in his left hand, while flower-decorated water streams from his right. Proceeding from his mouth is a large speech scroll edged with vegetation (probably meaning “flowery song”); the hearts, jade, and other symbols in the scroll may stand for the song’s content.

Provenance

in New York by 1964 or 1965; (John Stokes, New York); purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth,1972.