Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Costumed Figure

7th–8th century
Mexico, Mesoamerica
Ceramic, pigment
H. 11 1/2 x W. 3 13/16 x D. 3 3/4 in. (29.3 x 9.7 x 9.5 cm)
Ceramics-Musical Instruments
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 358
Jaina, a small island located off the western coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, was actually raised above the waters of the Gulf of Mexico when the Maya carried tons of earth and rubble onto it. As part of the funerary practice on Jaina, ceramic figurines, frequently in the form of rattles and whistles, were included in the burials. The early burials had few figurines, and they were of high quality like this one. As the burial location gained in popularity, the figures were produced in greater quantity and their aesthetic quality declined. The subject matter of Jaina figurines is most often related to matters of fertility. The underworld too had a place in the imagery as the deceased made their way through it and, if the journey was successful, reemerged in the upper world. The garment worn by this figure is believed to represent the quilted armor worn by warriors, but the elaboration of the costume and its accoutrements suggest a figure of high rank and noble status.
[Stendahl Gallery, Los Angeles, until 1961]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1961, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1961–1978

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, 622.

Miller, Mary Ellen. Jaina Figurines: A Study of Maya Iconography. Princeton: Princeton University Art Museum, 1975.

Newton, Douglas, Julie Jones, and Kate Ezra. The Pacific Islands, Africa, and the Americas. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987, no. 91, p. 125.

Garcia Moll, Roberto. "Los Mayas, arte y memoria." In Mexico en el mundo de las colecciones de arte, Vol. 2, edited by Beatriz de la Fuente. Vol. vol. 2. Mexico: D.R. Primera, 1994.

Schmidt, Peter, Mercedes de la Garza, and Enrique Nalda. Maya: Exhibition at the Palazzo Grassi in 1998. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 1998.

Miller, Mary Ellen, and Simon Martin. Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya. New York and San Francisco: Thames & Hudson Inc., 2004, pl. 9.

Finamore, Daniel, and Stephen D. Houston, eds. Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea. Salem and New Haven: Peabody Essex Museum, 2010.

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