Category Archives: 2012 Spring, ART 485: Art of Mesoamerica

Art of Mesoamerica

Maya Figures, Researched by Lauren Sissom

The five handmade Maya figures in this collection were made in the early to mid-20th century as trinkets to sell in the tourist trade, but they are also effective illustrations of traditional, everyday Maya dress from different towns in Guatemala during that time period. Made of string, cloth scraps, and simple, local materials, these are not fine miniatures with exacting details, but simplified, general approximations that still effectively give an idea of local costume for men and women.

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Purse of Hand-Woven Cloth with Embroidery, Researched by Stephenie Walker

This small purse is a good example of a tourist trade item that uses traditional Maya weaving methods and designs. The colorful woven striped design indicates that the purse was likely made from cloth that was woven by a Maya woman on a traditional backstrap loom. Later the cloth was embroidered within the larger stripes with images of small birds; these appear to be simplified, geometric representations of the quetzal bird, with its tail curled into a spiral to fit the space available.

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Mesoamerican Textiles, Researched by Samantha Gooding

The huipil is the traditional Maya woman’s popover blouse, but it takes many forms, from a long, dress-like garment to the short top exemplified here. This huipil consists of two narrow, rectangular bands, woven on a backstrap loom, that are sewn together, with a hole cut in the center for the head to slip through. The red cloth, with its bright vertical stripes, is typical of the town of Paztún, Guatemala.

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Red Tripod Rattle Vessel with Stripe-and-Triangle Rim Motif, Researched by Rae Ann Rockwell

The Chupícuaro are known for having produced fine pottery that was highly valued by other Mesoamerican cultures; not only were their vessels imported into many other areas, but these other regions tried to mimic the Chupícuaro styles in their own pottery made with local clay. This wide-mouthed bowl was a popular form, with a conical body and hollow, slit tripod legs.

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Small Cloth Sample with Multi-colored Bands from Sololá, Guatemala, Researched by Joshua Jones

This piece of cloth was cut from a larger piece of cloth and the edges left unfinished; it may simply have been sold as a sample, or it could have been intended as a coaster or small decoration. The particular woven geometric tapestry designs of stripes, dots, and dashes, with diamonds on one side and Xs on the other, indicate that it was likely woven by a Quiché Maya woman of Sololá, Guatemala, using a traditional backstrap loom.

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Magenta Saltillo-Style Serape, Researched by Rissa Fisher

The Saltillo-style serape is a brightly striped, blanket-like textile worn as a traditional garment by male members of the Mestizo (mixed indigenous and Spanish) cultures of northern Mexico. Consisting of a large, rectangular piece of cloth, serapes that are intended specifically as garments typically have a slit, called a bocamanga, in the center to facilitate wearing it poncho-style.

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