Mortuary offerings were placed in the tombs of Mayan noblemen to assist the deceased in their passage to the watery underworld. Funerary objects such as this were often decorated with symbols of water, marine vegetation, and animals. The painted body and lid of this vessel depict white water lilies floating against a green blue background; the water lily was seen as a plant that connects the underworld of water to the air of our world above. The petals of the lilies enclose red hieroglyphic signs, which allude to illustrious rulers and their titles. The carved areas, colored red, feature a complex array of interlocking scrolls that also symbolize water.
Artist Maya, Precolumbian
  • Tripod Vessel with Slab-legs
Date between 300 and 600
Medium earthenware with stucco and polychrome pigments
Dimensions Overall: 10 1/2 × 8 inches (26.7 × 20.3 cm)
Credit Line Founders Society Purchase, Arthur H. Nixon Fund
Accession Number 1984.12
Department Africa, Oceania & Indigenous Americas
Not On View
El Peten, Guatemala; Peter G. Wray, Phoenix, Arizona
Masterpieces of Pre-Columbian Art From The Collection Of Mr. & Mrs. Peter G. Wray. Exh. cat., Andre Emmerich Gallery. New York, 1984, no. 26 (ill.).

Graham, I. "Looters Rob Graves and History.” National Geographic 169, no 4 (April 1986): 453-460.

Miro, M. "Art World debates renewed issue of looting." Detroit Free Press, April 8, 1986, p. 2B (ill.).

You, Yao-Fen. “From Novelty to Necessity: The Europeanization of Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate.” In Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate: Consuming the World, ed. Yao-Fen You, Mimi Hellman, and Hope Saska. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 2016, p. 14; 16 (ill.); 131, cat. 4.