Bowl with ceremonially costumed figures

600–900 CE
more object details

General Description

The distinctive Veracruz ceramic style attributed to the Rio Blanco region features small, hemispheric bowls with exterior relief decoration. The bowls depict scenes in which ceremonially costumed human figures engage in ritual activity. On the Dallas bowl, two male figures sit, and four kneel on one leg. Each figure wears a patterned hip cloth, a necklace of circular beads (probably jade), a buccal mask (four have square noses and two have birdlike beaks) which covers the lower part of the face, and an elaborate headdress with prominent ear panels and lavish feathers. Four of the figures wear a capelike shoulder garment. The two seated figures hold stafflike objects, while the kneeling figures have winglike elements along their arms. The ritual they perform is unidentified, but other motifs that may prove significant in identifying the ritual are the dragonlike face and the leaf-and-stem element, both of which appear in several headdresses and in combination in the medallion on the base of the bowl.

Adapted from

  • Bonnie Pitman, ed., "Bowl with ceremonially costumed figures (1977.52)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 41.

  • Carol Robbins, Label text, A. H. Meadows Galleries, 2010.

Fun Facts

This piece is mold-made but was retouched after firing. Works such as this were often made specifically for elite burials, none of which are archaeologically intact. This example shows exactly the same ceremony as the "companion vessel" in the New Orleans Museum of Art (Isaac Delgado Museum, 1967.38). Though the exact ceremony is unknown, the dancing figure with feathers may have something to do with pulque rites and the shoulder capes are a symbol of the high elite in Veracruz. The ritual could thus represent a standard pulque ceremony or a burial rite.