This kneeling figure comes from the
Guanacaste-Nicoya polychrome tradition, the
galo polychrome style. Its mirror-bright
burnished surfaces are technically unsurpassed
by any Pre-Columbian pottery, and yellows, reds,
oranges, creams, maroons, and blacks of the
polychrome decorations are impressively vivid.
Among such sculptures are the full human
figures with elaborate representations of tattoos
or body paint. Such brilliant polychrome
tradition represent an important social
dimension; when the northern trade network
that brought jade, slate-backed pyrite mirrors,
foreign ceramics, and other luxury goods, the
Nicoyans responded by producing their own
special purpose pottery. Inspired by northern
models, it also incorporated local and southern
elements, forming a dazzling hybrid style that
was traded around Central America and southern
Meso-America in the centuries to come.
Elaborately decorated with colors and patterns,
this sculpted figure is kneeling, making a ritual
offering. Like a dignified priest, the figure
emanates a mysterious and strong charisma.
With his large eyes, he looks strait ahead,
holding a human head on a offering plate. In
ancient Costa Rica, human sacrifice was
practiced to please the powerful gods. A fine
example of galo polychrome figures, the
sculpture provides a wealth of ethnographic
detail because of the realistic style. His flat
headdress, decorated loincloth, earspools, and
body painting or tattooing are all vividly shown.
Moreover, the decorative painting on his cheeks
and his nose accentuates the sculptural quality
and drama of the bold face. With his face held
up straight and the hands carefully supporting
the precious offering, this regal figure demands
our absolute attention.