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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Tlaloc Effigy Vessels : Guanacaste-Nicoya Tlaloc Effigy Vessel
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Guanacaste-Nicoya Tlaloc Effigy Vessel - PF.4153
Origin: Guanacaste, Nicoya, Costa Rica
Circa: 1200 AD to 1550 AD
Dimensions: 12.5" (31.8cm) high
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Terracotta


Location: United States
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Description
Known throughout Mesoamerica by many names, Tlaloc, the great god of water, was probably one of the oldest gods worshiped as a result of the importance of rain for crop production. Tlaloc was not a creator God, but one created by other Gods. Although a beneficent god, Tlaloc certainly had the power to unleash floods, lightning and drought when angry. To please him children were sacrificed to him as well as prisoners dressed in his image. Legend has it that the more babies and children cried, the more Tlaloc was pleased. During the sacrifices, the tears of the screaming children were seen as representations of falling rain; the more the children cried, the better the rain season. Tlaloc can easily be identified by his characteristic mask, giving him the impression of eyeglasses and a mustache, or by his protruding tongue.

On this masterpiece of Costa Rican art, we find a vessel full of symbolism and color which is not only beautiful, but also mystical. The exquisite composition combines the patterns depicting important themes with vibrant colors that illuminate the work. Sculpted in the form of the great rain god Tlaloc, the limbs of the vessel have been decorated with stylized jaguar heads. Jaguars and humans were cohabitants in the Costa Rican jungles, and the people both worshipped them for their graceful beauty and feared them for their brutal strength. The jaguar traditionally symbolizes power and majesty, and in repetition reveals this Tlaloc's supreme authority. The god's distinctive face is easily recognizable. His eyes, nose, earrings, and protruding tongue have all been molded onto the surface of the vessel in low relief, adding to the illusion. His mouth and hanging tongue has been highlighted in bright orange paint, as if to draw attention to the thirst that he alone has the power to cure with rain. Furthermore, in an allusion to rain, painted orange tears stream down from his eyes, like the children who once cried to honor this mighty god.
- (PF.4153)

 

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