Vessel of the Ik’ Dancer

Guatemala, Maya culture
Precolumbian
Late Classic period (A.D. 600–900)
c. A.D. 750
Polychromed ceramic
H. 8 3/4 in. (22.3 cm); Diam. 4 3/8 in. (11.1 cm)
AP 1985.10
Currently On View
This vessel depicts a Maya lord nicknamed the Fat Cacique, ruler of the Ik’ polity. The action of the scene is divided between the interior and exterior of a palace building raised on a low platform with two steps. Inside the building, Fat Cacique is comfortably seated on a bench with a huge pillow, both covered with jaguar pelts. On either side of Fat Cacique are two attendants, partly obscured by the door jambs that frame this scene. A dwarf sits on the first step below the lord. Three dancers stand in front of Fat Cacique, before the blank outer wall of the building, performing a ritual bloodletting dance. Their white loincloths are spattered with blood from this ceremony, in which they would perforate their genitals, and, as they whirled, blood would be drawn into the paper panels extending from their groins. The Maya routinely practiced bloodletting as an offering to the gods, who had shed their own blood to create humanity. The blood of captives was often shed to give to the gods, as well as the blood of nobles who performed autosacrifice.

Provenance

Purchased by Robert Hubler, Fort Worth, from Enrique Rodas, Guatemala, in 1980; (Fort Worth Gallery, Fort Worth); purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1985.