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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Tlaloc Effigy Vessels : Guanacaste-Nicoya Vessel Depicting the Head of Tlaloc
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Guanacaste-Nicoya Vessel Depicting the Head of Tlaloc - PF.4154
Origin: Guanacaste, Nicoya, Costa Rica
Circa: 1000 AD to 1550 AD

Collection: Pre-Columbian
Style: Guanacaste-Nicoya
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.

From this beautifully created representation flows the emotions and personality of the mighty Tlaloc. His eyes look like sun disks, symbolizing his powers are eternal and as mighty as the sun. Stylized crocodile figures crawl across a band painted beneath the rim on the back of the vessel, representing the power and strength this deity possessed as well as the animals this culture worshipped. The god's distinctive face is easily recognizable. The nose, mouth, and ears are have been molded in low relief onto the otherwise smooth surface of the vessel, adding a sculptural quality to the piece. This also may represent the power he holds over those who possess this vessel. The deity is omnipresent, able to hear all, smell all, and taste the world around it. 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. The artist has created an almost realistic being, capable of coming to life at any minute through the colors, detail of facial expression, and the precision of form. This artist has succeeded in opening up our minds to a higher world through a skillful composition.
- (PF.4154)

 

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