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ANCIENT AMERICAN ART Based on the exhibition at the Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University (http://www.carlos.emory.edu/ancient-american-art)

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Presentation on theme: "ANCIENT AMERICAN ART Based on the exhibition at the Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University (http://www.carlos.emory.edu/ancient-american-art)"— Presentation transcript:

1 ANCIENT AMERICAN ART Based on the exhibition at the Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University (http://www.carlos.emory.edu/ancient-american-art)

2 The Exhibit  THE CARLOS MUSEUM'S COLLECTION OF ART OF THE ANCIENT AMERICAS IS SUBSTANTIAL, CONSISTING OF MORE THAN 2,300 PIECES  THREE PRINCIPAL CULTURAL CENTERS OF THE AMERICAS ARE REPRESENTED: MESOAMERICA, CENTRAL AMERICA, AND THE ANDES

3 ROSALES ZONED ENGRAVED FEMALE EFFIGY this large hollow female effigy figure is the finest known example of the Rosales Zoned Engraved style from ancient Costa Rica She is also among the earlier works of art in the collection as a whole, dating to between 200 B.C. and A.D. 200 Rosales represents a particularly elegant bichromatic ceramic style from northwestern Costa Rica, an area known as Guanacaste- Nicoya Rosales is one of the most beautifully crafted of the Guanacaste-Nicoya styles, with its remarkably thin walls, glossy burnished surfaces, and carefully delineated black areas with incised outlines. Originally, this effigy would have appeared a considerably brighter red; black spotting represents the deposition of manganese oxide that often occurs during prolonged burial.

4 ROSALES ZONED ENGRAVED FEMALE EFFIGY  ROSIE," AS SHE IS AFFECTIONATELY KNOWN, CONSTITUTES A MASTERPIECE OF DESIGN AS WELL AS A TECHNICAL FEAT.  FROM THE FRONT VIEW, BOLD FACIAL FEATURES AND DRAMATIC SHOULDER LINES STRIKE THE VIEWER, WHILE FROM THE BACK, FLOWING GEOMETRIC PATTERNS ACCENTUATING HER ANATOMY CAPTIVATE THE EYE.  SIDE VIEWS REVEAL HER AS A WATERFALL OF CURVES AND HER SWELLING BELLY BECOMES OBVIOUS.  THE MOST ARTFUL DESIGN CHOICE APPEARS IN THE TREATMENT OF HER CROSSED LEGS. RATHER THAN MODEL THE OVERLAPPING OF UPPER AND LOWER LEGS IN THREE DIMENSIONS, THE ARTIST CHOSE TO RENDER THE LOWER LEGS TWO- DIMENSIONALLY, PAINTING THEM IN BLACK UP THE INSIDE OF THE THIGHS.  HER FEET CROSS AT THE CENTER OF HER FEMININITY, SIMULTANEOUSLY DRAWING ATTENTION TO, YET CONCEALING HER SEXUALITY.

5 ROSALES ZONED ENGRAVED FEMALE EFFIGY  SUCH A CREATIVE LEG TREATMENT DEMONSTRATES HOW THE ANCIENT COSTA RICAN ARTIST, FELT NO COMPULSION TO IMITATE NATURAL FORMS AS THEY APPEAR TO US IN PHYSICAL SPACE.  ARTIST ATTEMPTED TO REPRESENT THE ESSENCE OF FEMALENESS (MOST OF ANCIENT AMERICAN ART REPRESENTS HUMAN BEINGS AND THE NATURAL WORLD IN ABSTRACT, RATHER THAN NATURAL WAYS)  SHE WOULD HAVE BEEN PLACED IN THE GRAVE OF AN EXTREMELY IMPORTANT PERSON, PROBABLY A CHIEF, SO AS TO GRANT HIM REBIRTH IN THE NEXT WORLD.  SMALLER, CRUDER FEMALE EFFIGIES WERE MADE IN ABUNDANCE FOR THOSE LOWER IN STATUS.

6 FLUTE IN THE FORM OF A BAT  THIS TINY COSTA RICAN CERAMIC FLUTE LIKELY DEPICTS A VAMPIRE BAT  ITS STANDING POSITION REPRESENTS HOW THEY WALK ON THEIR BACK FEET TO APPROACH THEIR PREY.  TO EVOKE THE ANIMAL’S VELVETY BROWN FUR THE ARTIST USED BROWN CLAY PAINT (“SLIP”) AND ROCKED THE EDGE OF A SHELL ACROSS THE SURFACE.

7 FLUTE IN THE FORM OF A BAT  ON THE BACK ARE FOUR HOLES USED TO CREATE DIFFERENT NOTES  THE BAT’S TAIL SERVES AS THE MOUTHPIECE.  WHEN NOT BEING PLAYED, THE FLUTE COULD BE WORN AS A PENDANT (THERE ARE HOLES RUNNING THROUGH THE BAT’S NECK TO SUSPEND IT AS A NECKLACE ON A STRING OR VINE).  TO PLAY IT, THE MUSICIAN WOULD TURN THE BAT UPSIDE DOWN; ONLY WHEN ACTUAL BATS ARE UPSIDE DOWN, ROOSTING, CAN HUMANS HEAR THE SOUNDS THAT THEY MAKE.  THUS, THE ARTIST INFUSED THE ESSENCE OF THE ANIMAL INTO THE WORK OF ART.

8 FLUTE IN THE FORM OF A BAT  BATS ARE FAIRLY COMMON SUBJECTS IN THE ART OF THE ANCIENT AMERICAS PROBABLY BECAUSE THEY REFLECT SHAMANIC BELIEFS  BATS DISPLAY A SPECIAL ABILITY TO HUNT SUCCESSFULLY AT NIGHT, ACCURATELY LOCATING THEIR PREY IN COMPLETE DARKNESS.  THE SHAMAN, A VISIONARY INTERMEDIARY BETWEEN PEOPLE AND THE SUPERNATURAL, LIKEWISE SAW MORE THAN OTHERS DURING NIGHTTIME RITUALS.  TODAY FLUTES ARE STILL COMMONLY USED IN SHAMANIC RITUALS TO CALL SPIRITS AND COMMUNICATE WITH THE UNSEEN.  SO A FLUTE SHAPED LIKE A BAT MAY HAVE BEEN USED TO CALL BAT SPIRITS TO HELP THE SHAMAN SEE IN THE DARK.

9 CROCODILE/HUMAN SEAT  CENTRAL AMERICA, COSTA RICA, GREATER NICOYA. PERIOD VI, AD

10 CROCODILE/HUMAN SEAT  IN ANCIENT CENTRAL AMERICAN CHIEFDOMS A PERSON WHO WAS ELEVATED ON A SEAT LIKE THIS ONE WAS SOMEONE OF HIGH STATUS.  THESE SOCIETIES WERE ORGANIZED INTO GROUPS OF SEVERAL HUNDRED PEOPLE WHOSE POLITICAL AND SPIRITUAL LEADER WAS FIRST AMONG EQUALS.  IN COSTA RICAN ART SHAMANS ARE OFTEN SHOWN SITTING ON BENCHES WITH CROCODILIAN HEAD ORNAMENTS.  THUS, THIS CROCODILE-HUMAN HEAD SEAT PROBABLY BELONGED TO A SPIRITUAL LEADER.

11 CROCODILE/HUMAN SEAT  THE POWERS OF HUMAN SPIRITUAL INTERMEDIARIES WERE CLOSELY ALLIED TO THOSE OF FEROCIOUS ANIMALS, SUCH AS CROCODILES (OR JAGUARS).  SHAMANS WERE BELIEVED TO TRANSFORM INTO ANIMALS DURING TRANCES.  HERE THE SEAT COMBINES HUMAN AND CROCODILE ELEMENTS: THE UPRIGHT HEAD OF A HUMAN HAS EARS WITH LARGE SPOOL-LIKE EARRINGS OF A HIGH-STATUS INDIVIDUAL, WHILE THE LONG ZIGZAG TEETH AND ROUND EYES ARE UNMISTAKABLY THOSE OF A CROCODILE.  THE SHAMAN IS SHOWN AS BOTH HUMAN AND ANIMAL.

12 CROCODILE/HUMAN SEAT  WHEN A POWERFUL PERSON SAT ON THE CONCAVE UPPER SURFACE OF THE SEAT, HIS OR HER LEGS WOULD STRADDLE THE CROCODILE’S SNOUT AS IF THE PERSON WERE RIDING A MIGHTY BEAST.  THE HUMAN FACES OF THE RIDER ABOVE AND THE ANIMAL BELOW WOULD MIRROR EACH OTHER, THE HUMAN AND THE ANIMAL REALMS UNITED.  THUS, THE DUALITY OF THE SHAMAN, BRIDGING THIS WORLD AND THE NEXT, VISIBLE REALITY AND THE UNSEEN, ARE CELEBRATED IN THIS POWERFUL DOUBLE IMAGE.

13 INCENSE BURNER WITH SUN GOD- JAGUAR GOD OF THE UNDERWORLD LID  MESOAMERICAA, HIGHLAND GUATEMALA, MAYA. EARLY CLASSIC, AD

14 INCENSE BURNER WITH SUN GOD- JAGUAR GOD OF THE UNDERWORLD LID  ANCIENT AMERICAN PEOPLES ALMOST UNIVERSALLY BELIEVED IN THE EXISTENCE OF AN “ANIMAL SPIRIT COMPANION” FOR EVERY HUMAN BEING.  SHAMANIC SPIRITUALITY INCLUDES THE VISIONARY EXPERIENCE OF TRANSFORMING INTO ONE’S ANIMAL SELF DURING RITUAL TRANCE STATES.  THIS BELIEF IN THE EQUIVALENCE OF HUMAN AND ANIMAL IS PORTRAYED WITH UNUSUAL LITERALNESS IN THIS EARLY MAYA CERAMIC INCENSE BURNER.  ON ONE SIDE OF THE LID IS AN ELDERLY SUN GOD IN HUMAN FORM AND ON THE OTHER A JAGUAR, REPRESENTING THE JAGUAR GOD OF THE UNDERWORLD.

15 INCENSE BURNER WITH SUN GOD-JAGUAR GOD OF THE UNDERWORLD LID  THEIR PHYSICAL UNITY AND IDENTICAL POSTURES SHOW THAT THEY REPRESENT THE TWO ASPECTS OF A SINGLE BEING.  NOTICE IN THE SIDE VIEW OF THE PIECE HOW THE SPOTS OF THE JAGUAR MEET THE SKIN OF THE MAN IN A WAVY LINE.  IN MAYA HIEROGLYPHIC WRITING THE SIGN FOR “ANIMAL SPIRIT COMPANION” LIKEWISE SHOWS A WAVY LINE SEPARATING JAGUAR SPOTS AND A HUMAN FACE.  THEREFORE, THIS PIECE IS A THREE- DIMENSIONAL VERSION OF THE WORD FOR ONE’S ANIMAL SELF.  THE DUAL LID FIGURE ALSO SYMBOLIZES THE MAYA BELIEF THAT THE SUN BECOMES A JAGUAR AT NIGHT AS IT TRAVERSES THE UNDERWORLD.

16 INCENSE BURNER WITH SUN GOD-JAGUAR GOD OF THE UNDERWORLD LID  THIS IMAGE WAS TO BE SEEN WITH THE AROMATIC SMOKE OF BURNING PINE RESIN SEEPING OUT FROM BETWEEN BASE AND LID.  THIS MEANS THAT THE DUAL FIGURE WOULD HAVE BEEN WREATHED IN SMOKE, PARTLY VISIBLE, AS IN A VISION OR DREAM.  IN THIS WAY THE DESIGN OF THE OBJECT COMPLEMENTED ITS SUBJECT.  SMOKE WAS CONSIDERED A PROPERLY ETHEREAL MODE OF COMMUNICATION BETWEEN THE HUMAN AND THE SUPERNATURAL REALMS.


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