Censer, Seated King, Ceramic, Maya

Censer, Seated King

4th century
H. 31 1/2 x W. 12 1/4 in. (80 x 31.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Charles and Valerie Diker, 1999
Accession Number:
1999.484.1a, b
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 358
Perhaps the depiction of a fourth-century Maya king, this incense burner would have been used to make offerings carried by smoke to the spirits and deities in the supernatural realm. Rulers are represented in Maya art as communicators with the supernatural and the living may have sought their continued intervention after death. The use of censers bearing the royal image may have reinforced the belief that when a ruler died he became divine. This censer is composed of two parts, the base in which the incense burned and the chimney decorated with the image of the Maya lord. This bearded figure, whose body is rather schematic in presentation, perhaps suggesting an early date, sits cross-legged wearing a richly ornamented headdress and large earspools, and holding before him what may be a royal emblem.
Charles and Valerie Diker, New York, until 1999

Fields, Virginia M., and Dorie Reents-Budet. Lords of Creation: The Origins of Sacred Maya Kingship. London and Los Angeles: Scala Publishers Limited, 2005, no. 64, pp. 166–167.