Mayan sculptures of gods

Maya Art
February 5, 2019 – 02:04 pm
Image of: Mayan Sculpture

The art of the Maya, is a reflection of their lifestyle and culture Obsidian, bone, shells, Jade and stone, clay and stucco models, and terracotta figurines from molds. The technical process of metal working was also highly developed but as the resources were scarce, they only created ornaments in this media. Music was very appreciated and there is also proof of Theater plays being held in the public ceremonies. The Maya Kings commissioned finely crafted works to furnish their palaces and attest to their sovereignty and Warfare victories, among them, carved thrones and throne backs, where a king might reign supported by depictions of ancestors or gods. Figural mirror holders served as “perpetual servants” who revealed the king’s dazzling but fractured image in polished pyrite and hematite, mosaic mirrors, artists working in stucco achieved realistic portraiture that captures age and wisdom. Painted cups and vases for the elite depict scenes of court life, while clay figurines portray members of the retinue that attended the king. Representing ball players, servants, dwarfs, hunchbacks, musicians, messengers, and priests, along with elegantly coiffed women, these figurines all come from tombs, where they also served their lords in death. Although, The Maya Art was not only for the royalty, as the multiple findings in households shows. On the other hand in Aguateca, every one of the elite residences excavated so far has included a workshop—a sign that Aguateca's sculptors, painters, ceramic artists, and scribes came overwhelmingly from the ranks of nobility. A sampling of clay figurines shows their range of inspiration. The enigmatic and extremely fine sculptures from an Unknown Site, named Q for Qué? in Spanish (What?), has been identified as La Corona in Northwestern Petén.

Sculpture: A common form of Maya sculpture was the stela. The Maya somehow transported enormous stones through the jungle from distant quarries, apparently without the aid of either wheeled carts or beasts of burden. Artists then used only rudimentary stone tools to execute the intricate carvings, before raising the ponderous sculptures to their present vertical positions. The largest in the Maya world is Stela E at (See Photo) and Naranjo in the Highlands.
The inhabitants of Cotzumalguapa, near the early Preclassic Monte Alto, developed an original artistic style and a writing system of their own, which found expression in a large corpus of monumental sculptures. These include rock carvings, Stelas, Altars, Colossal Heads, and three-dimensional Sculptures, as well as a variety of architectural sculptures such as carved stairs, pillars and pavement stones. There are also numerous portable sculptures. Characteristic of the Cotzumalguapa style is an extraordinary degree of realism in the representation of human figures, which in many cases may be considered as individual portraits, possibly representing kings and nobles. In many cases, these individuals participate in complex scenes, where they interact with other human characters or with supernatural beings. Sacrificial scenes are frequent. Distinctive elements of the Cotzumalguapa style include speech scrolls shaped as vines with a variety of flowers and fruits. Hieroglyphic signs usually are inscribed in circular cartouches, but they may also acquire complex animated forms.

Ceramic: Unlike the monuments, whose royal proclamations were intended for public view, the ceramic vessels are often very anecdotal and are where the ancient Maya, in a sense, really let its feelings go free. One aspect of Mayan art is often overlooked, and that is the tremendous variety of excellence in style and design that it contains. Ancient Greek vase paintings are equally excellent but in comparison to the Mayan are mono-stylistic. Mayan art gave almost free reign to the artist, who was not required to produce a product that fit "the cannon of the culture" in every way. In its encouragement of individual genius and its variations from one workshop to another, the products of which were intended in good part to be given or sold to the royalty of other cities, Mayan vase paintings are more akin to the art of the modern period than the art of any other pre-modern people. The principal valuation seems to have been on artistic quality rather than adherence to standardized forms. Furthermore, like Greek and Chinese artists, Mayan painters and sculptors sometimes signed their work. Accordingly, their work was not a "cultural product" or a "city's product" but a person's product. They excel in all aspects of ceramics, including Flasks for several porpoises, Incense burners, burial Urns and articulated ceramics. Different names were used for different artifacts: uk’ib’, “drinking vase”, jaay, “bowl”, lak, “plate”, and jawa[n]te’, “tripod plate”. Often the work produced by a particular artist, was heavily sought after by the elite classes of Maya society, the most renown is Aj Muwan from Naranjo, maker of the 7 and 11 god vases among other fine pieces.

It appears that literacy was confined to the elite (as in all pre-modern cultures) and artists and the literate were of the same class; indeed, it is probable that Mayan artists were often the younger sons and daughters of the ahaw, the rulers, of Mayan cities, as the Yaxhá case illustrates, as the minor son of the ruler was known only after his paintings. One should look at these paintings as an appreciator of art, not as an anthropologist. How do the artists use color, or ignore it? How do they use line, thin or thick, space human figures, show life and energy, incorporate calligraphy into their work?. Of note is that: "After a review of thousands of ceramic pieces and hundreds of thin section examples of Maya ceramics from major lowland sites, we identified the types of ceramics that had volcanic ash tempering added to the clay paste and determined that volcanic ash made up more than 20% of the ceramic paste matrix of the ash tempered ceramic collections. The ash and assemblage of crystals (biotite, hornblende, hypersthene, and zircon) all are consistent with Guatemala Highland tephra" (Drexler et al., 1980; Rose et al., 1981).

Figurines from 's Tomb 28

The pottery found in the Maya sites and caves, is the more common way to date and identify the commerce between the different regions, The archeologist divide the different styles in periods that share style and features, the most beautiful is the polychrome specially the Codex style, from the late Classic occupation in El Mirador, the Ik site now known to be Motul de San Josécreatures. Many highly detailed clay figurines were made by the Maya, portraying humans and gods. These were made with molds and by hand. The Maya had every day and ceremonial pottery, and it was the main sacrifice object used in the Maya Caves rituals, the destroying of the physical representation of an object is significant because its destruction activates and brings the offerings spirit to the world, allowing it to be used in the supernatural realm. Several examples of offering destruction were also unearthed in the Caves. The presence of obsidian blades, censers fragments, charcoal, and fire-cracked rock all attest to bloodletting and a burning event, or events. According to the Popol Vuh, humans were made from corn found in a cave, and bloodletting was one of the obligations set out by the gods when they gave people the world. The Incense or "Incensarios", ( saklaktun) used to burn Copal (Pom) from Tiquisate, Escuintla in the Pacific Lowlands

A very well known style is the Chamá Polychromes, named for the type site in Guatemala, which lies in a fertile valley on the Chixoy river, in the Alta Verapáz, Guatemala’s hilly middle country, situated between the great Classic Era cities of the Petén in the Lowlands, and the more sparsely populated highlands to the west and south. The region lies on one of the major Precolumbian trade routes, but is peripheral to the prominent lowland Maya cities, and its architectural remains are not spectacular. Many of these polychrome masterpieces have been excavated intact from the tombs and palaces of the elite, and are recognized as among the finest expressions of Maya artistic genius. Indeed, their presence is often an indicator of Classic "Maya-ness" (Reents Budet 1994). Chamá-style cylindrical vases have distinctive black-and-white chevron motif bands painted around the rim and base, with a bright white, and strong red-and-black palette, applied to a distinctive yellow to yellow-orange background. The preferred decorative template is either a static scene or individual repeated on each half of the vessel surface, continuous scene wrapped around the cylinder, such as on the well-known Ratinlinxul Vase. It lasted only 3 generations, at the end of the 7th and it was presumed to be an fleeing elite from Altar de Sacrificios, located at the confluence of La Pasión and Chixoy rivers where they form The Usumacinta, that introduced this fine style.

Painting: The Maya excel in the painting mainly in Ceramics, but the murals both in buildings and in caves, were also important to them, they use several vegetal as well as mineral colorants to perform their masterpieces as the brilliantly rendered murals at San Bartolo, that constitute the most elaborate mythological scenes known for the ancient Maya. The mural is approximately 2000 years old, with more than 40 feet of this spectacular painting exposed, we are given a unique glimpse into the ancient mythology of the Maya. Other early examples of Mural painting are found in La Sufricaya and Uaxactún. They also painted their Temples in red and white, as well as the monuments. Recent investigations in the well preserved Rosalía Temple in Copán, have proved that in some buildings, the paint was mixed with Mica to make the buildings glitter in the sun, being Guatemala the only known source of this mineral in the Maya area, but it was used only in a, not in the regular maintenance and repainting. The Murals in San Bartolo and the Tombs in Río Azul are exceptional painting examples, that contain a wide range of colors, including the Maya Blue.

The ancient Maya combined skills in organic chemistry and mineralogy to create an important technology – the first permanent organic pigment–. The unique color and stability of Maya Blue, the most durable Maya color, that only recently has been reproduced. The Maya blue pigment is a composite of organic and inorganic constituents, primarily indigo dyes derived from the leaves of añil (Indigofera suffruticosa or Indigofera guatemalensis) plants combined with palygorskite (Sepiolite), a natural clay, cooked at 100 oC, that makes it turn from blackish to its exquisite tone. Smaller trace amounts of other mineral additives have also been identified. Due to its attractive turquoise color and light fastness, Maya blue was widely used in mural paintings, sculptures, ceramics and codices.

Bilbao, Cotzumalguapa Monument 16

Jade Pectoral Nebaj

Figurine Waka'

Jade Funeral Mask - Tikal

Carved Stone Box, Hul Nal Ye Cave,

Chamá Style, Monkey with Hat
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