Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Column, Costumed Figure

8th–9th century
Mexico, Mesoamerica, Campeche
H. 68 3/4 x W. 29 (173.4 x 73.7)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1963
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 358
This large rounded column has been carved in high relief on three sides, its composition primarily dedicated to a standing male figure. This richly dressed personage wears a giant, three-tiered feathered headdress and is flanked by a small attendant figure, likely a courtly dwarf. Depicted frontally with splayed feet, the person wears elaborate regalia including large earflare assemblages and high-backed sandals. His pectoral is created from square jade beads and features an ancestor head and three dangling celts; a horizontal tubular bead with feathers projecting from its end has been suspended from the necklace at hangs at waist level. Similar square jade beads appear on his calf-length tunic. The figure holds a hooked obsidian scepter in his right hand and a shield in his left. The face of the ruler has been intentionally damaged in antiquity, effectively erasing most of his facial features.

Columns with carved relief figures such as this well preserved example are not common in Maya architecture. Cylindrical columns are found in the 8th and 9th century architecture of the northern Yucatan Peninsula, in the modern Mexican states of Campeche and Yucatan. The artists’ technique of sculpting these columns creates imagery that mirrors that of bas-relief stelae from the southern Maya Lowlands. A column in the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts is reported to be the pair to this one.
[Aaron Furman Gallery, New York, until 1962]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1962–1963; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1963–1978

Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, 626.

Newton, Douglas, Julie Jones, and Kate Ezra. The Pacific Islands, Africa, and the Americas. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987, no. 93, p. 128.

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