Relief-Carved Bowl, Ceramic, Olmec

Relief-Carved Bowl

12th–9th century B.C.
Mexico, Mesoamerica
H. 4 7/16 x Diam. 5 15/16 in. (11.2 x 15 cm)
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
This straight-sided blackware bowl features a long-beaked bird and a scroll design in low relief. The contrast in surface texture lends the vessel special appeal. The Olmec who lived in the coastal swamps of the southern Gulf of Mexico at the turn of the first millennium BCE established many of the cultural patterns built upon by subsequent Mesoamerican peoples. Monumental sculptures in volcanic rock, delicately carved ritual objects in jade, and carefully crafted figures and vessels in clay are their chief sculptural legacy. Olmec ceramic vessels—ranging from elegant, simple forms with well-finished surfaces to sculpted naturalistic effigies to those with complex carved or incised imagery—have survived in large numbers.
[Stendahl Art Gallelries, Los Angeles, until 1955]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1955, on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, 1956–1978

Coe, Michael D. and Sophie D. "Pre-classic central Mexico." In The Jaguar's Children. New York: Museum of Primitive Art, 1965, no. 85, pl. 122.

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, no. 560.