Maya art is noted for its dense and complex pictorial decoration, although not all Maya material was meant to be adorned. In media such as onyx, it is often the case that when vessels are decorated, they are done so with great restraint. That this bowl is undecorated enhances the significance of the form and concentrates attention on the beauty of the material.
While the specific origin of this bowl is unknown, it was discovered in Maya territory. It is possible that it was brought to the Maya world by pochteca, a special class of traders from the highlands, who were allowed to travel throughout Mesoamerica and beyond trading goods such as cacao, cloth, skins, jade, and pottery. From its superior quality it is possible to speculate that this bowl was tailored for a specific market, probably a wealthy Maya clientele, for whom it would have functioned as a funerary vessel.
Purchased by John Williams III, Dallas, Texas, beginning to mid-1970s;
(Ancient Art of the New World, New York);
purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1994.