This cylindrical marble vase features two handles, each in the form of a snarling bat with an upturned nose and a protruding torso. The lower portion of the vessel, a hollow pedestal base, bulges slightly in profile and is drilled with openwork linear designs. The upper and lower borders of the body give the appearance of overlapping scales or feathers, while the main ground is covered with volutes, stylized eyes, and limb motifs carved in low relief.
White limestone marble vessels, used to drink chocolate or other ritual beverages, became prized possessions after about the seventh century. Vases of this style originated from sites near Travesía in the Ulúa Valley, in the Gulf of Honduras, and were exported as luxury goods to as far away as the heart of the Maya lowlands, islands in the Belizean Caribbean, and Costa Rica. Local artists must have developed these vessels, which were then made by subsequent generations for wider circulation in Mesoamerica and the coastal Caribbean.
The people of ancient Honduras have traditionally been associated by scholars with Mayan-speaking groups in Mesoamerica. Recent archaeological discoveries, however, have identified a distinct culture in this region that may have been equally connected to societies in southern Central America, especially along the Caribbean coast. Prominent motifs in Ulúa-style vases, as they are known, include snarling bats, felines, and birds as well as geometric volutes and woven designs, all of which share certain characteristics with decorative elements from the rest of the Caribbean. The iconography of Ulúa bats, furthermore, is more consistent with depictions produced farther south—in Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia—than with those produced by Maya artists to the west.
Rosemary A. Joyce, “Surrounded by Beauty: Central America before 1500,” in Rosemary A. Joyce et al., Revealing Ancestral Central America. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Latino Center; National Museum of the American Indian, 2013, p. 15.
C. Luke, R. H. Tykot, and R. W. Scott, “Petrographic and Stable Isotope Analyses of Late Classic Ulúa Marble Vases and Potential Sources,” Archaeometry 48, no. 1 (February 2006), pp. 13–29.
Christina Marie Luke, “Ulúa Style Marble Vases” (Ph.D. diss., Cornell University, 2002), fig. E.31.
E. Christian Wells et al., “Analysis of the Context and Contents of an Ulúa-Style Marble Vase from the Palmarejo Valley, Honduras,” Latin American Antiquity 25, no. 1 (March 2014), pp. 82–100.
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Dimensions:H. 5 7/8 x Diam. 5 in. (14.9 x 12.7 cm)
Credit Line:Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1972
Prince Pierre Troubetzkoy (1864–1936), Cobham, VA, by inheritance, until before 1937; [Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, before 1937, until 1943]; Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI, until 1972; (Sotheby, Park-Bernet, New York, May 4, 1972, lot 210)
Baltimore Museum of Art. "The Art of the Maya," November 15, 1937–December 15, 1937.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Arte del mar: Artistic Exchange in the Caribbean," December 16, 2019–June 27, 2021.
Gordon, George Byron. Researches in the Uloa Valley, Honduras: Report on explorations by the museum, 1896-97. Memoirs of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Vol. vol. 1, no. 4. Cambridge: Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1898.
Gordon, George Byron. "The Ulua Marble vases." The Museum Journal (University of Philadelphia) vol. 11 (1920), pp. 24–25, 40–41, p. 145, pl. XIIe, fig. 201.
The Art of the Maya. Baltimore: Baltimore Museum of Art, 1937, no. 14.
Stone, Doris Zemurray. Masters in Marble. Middle Americas research series, Vol. vol. 8, no. 1. New Orleans: Middle American Research Institute at Tulane University, 1938(?), pp. 58–65.
Strong, William Duncan, Alfred Kidder, and Anthony Joseph Drexel Paul. Preliminary report on the Smithsonian institution-Harvard university archeological expedition to northwestern Honduras, 1936. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1938.
Yde, Jens. An archaeological reconnaissance of northwestern Honduras; a report of the work of the Tulane university-Danish national museum expediton to Central America, 1935. Middle American research series, Vol. vol. IX. Copenhagen: Levin & Munksgaard, 1938.
Kelemen, Pál. Medieval American art : a survey in two volumes. Vol. 2 vols.. New York: MacMillan, 1943–44, p. 146, pl. 94.
Spinden, Herbert J. Maya Art and Civilization. Indian Hills, CO: The Falcon's Wing Press, 1957.
Handbook of the Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1963.
Jones, Julie, and Susan Mullin Vogel. Notable Acquisitions (Metropolitan Museum of Art) (1965–75), pp. 171–183.
Easby, Elizabeth Kennedy, and John F. Scott. Before Cortez: Sculpture in Middle America. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1970.
Schmidt, Peter, Mercedes de la Garza, and Enrique Nalda. Maya: Exhibition at the Palazzo Grassi in 1998. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 1998, p. 587, pls. 273, 274.
Cornell University. "Ulúa Style Marble Vases." PhD diss., Christina Marie Luke, 2002, fig. E.31.
Luke, C., R. H. Tykot, and R. W. Scott. "Petrographic and Stable Isotope Analyses of Late Classic Ulúa Marble Vases and Potential Sources
." Archaeometry vol. 48, no. 1 (February 2006), https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-4754.2006.00240.x.
Joyce, Rosemary A., ed. Revealing Ancestral Central America. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 2013, p. 15.
Wells, E. Christian, Karla Davis-Salazar, José E. Moreno-Cortés, Glenn S. L. Stuart, and Anna C. Novotny. Latin American Antiquity vol. 25, no. 1 (March 2014), pp. 82–100.
Doyle, James. "Arte del Mar: Art of the Early Caribbean." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 77, no. 3 (Winter 2020), p. 17, fig.18.
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