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Vessel with Two Gods before a Mountain, c. A.D. 700–800

Ancient American

The elaborate mythological scene on this vessel, carved in low relief in the leather-hard clay before firing, achieves at a smaller scale much the same effect as the Maya stone relief carvings. On either side of an inverted L-shaped panel of five glyphs, the Water-lily Jaguar and Chak face one another. In this pairing, they are depicted as actors in a sacrificial death dance. Chak, the god of rain and lightning, is identified by shell earflares and a shell diadem, by long hair gathered together and tied, and by his thunderbolt axe. He is seated before the so-called Kawak Monster, the head of a creature covered in reptilian scales, and with half-closed eyes and a huge tongue that drops to the ground from its gaping mouth. This is actually the iconic form of witz, “mountain,” and it seems as if the rain god, who dwells in mountain caves, has just emerged from his home. The Water-lily Jaguar is identified by a water-lily blossom or leaf on his head, death-eye cuffs and collar, and a pattern of spots on his body. While he is a jaguar, his motions and postures are, in most representations, those of a human.


(Alphonse Jax, New York);

purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1980.

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