This limestone relief panel was discovered at the site of La Pasadita - a colony of the center Yaxchilan on the Usamacinta River located in Southern Mexico. The panel was created roughly around A.D. 750-800, late
8th century, by artist Chakalte (Kubler, 1962). The intricately designed relief panel likely served as a doorway to a Mayan temple that forced it's visitors to look up at the portrayal of the young lord of La Pasadita, Tiloom,who ruled roughly around A.D. 750-770. Tiloom is portrayed standing with arms thrusted outward, presenting gifts of a headdress and package, to the holy lord of Yaxchilan (Chakalte, 2016).
Tiloom's master sculptor of choice, Chakalte, used a variety of limestone and volcanic tuff to sculpt the door lintel portrait of the divine lords. Chakalte used stone tools such as limestone quarries , chisels , blades, and polishing stones to carve the huge limestone piece (88.8 x 87.6 x 7cm).
Chakalte provided his written signature at the bottom of his sculpted piece, which is extremely rare in Mayan art. Creating large pieces, such as this one, required immense labor from the sculptor. The process of carving and polishing the abrasive limestone was also tedious and time-consuming-but a small price to be displayed before royalty (Foias, 1997).
Limestone itself is a fairly easy resouce to find in Guatemala. However, archaeologists were impressed by the amount of color the limestone retained in the door lintel over such a long period of time since its production. In the original piece, there were vibrant shades of red, yellow, and jade. Jade was an important color in Mayan culture for its representation of royalty. Chakalte used jade very intentionally as Shield Jaguar IV's necklace to symbolize his powerful rule over the kingdom (Chakalte, 2016). To fabricate the plaster for the Mayan relief panel, Chakalte had to crush and burn pieces of limestone to design more intricate details such as the different faces of the men pictured.
Local Historical ContextEdit
The Relief with Enthroned Ruler panel was scultped, painted, and portrayed in a Mayan religious temple in order to exalt the king. This piece was created during the Late Classic Nacimiento phase (A.D 760-830)(Foias, 1997). The most common subjects in Mayan art are mortal rulers and supernatural beings (Doyle, 2000). The Relief with Enthroned Ruler symbolizes Tiloom's devotion to Shield Jaguar IV. Historians have been able to learn about ancient America through various pieces of art and what they depict about civilization, this piece being no exception. Anthropologists have deduced that there were three main classifications of ancient Mayan people : simple villagers, priestly rulers, and professional warriors (Kubler, 1962).
High rates of internal warfare likely decreased exchange of pottery/artwork, increasing the value of such pieces. There are more than 60 kingdoms all with divine lords "competing for land, raw materials, and trade routes" (Kubler, 1962). Warfare also made production of Mayan artwork more centralized, "with the effect of an increase in the number of producers, an increase in the clay sources used, and a decrease in the standardization of the ceramic products" (Foias, 1997).
Relief with Enthroned Ruler magnifies the deep societal ties between the political and religious culture of Yaxchilan. This piece of art is the last before the institutional collapse in the 8th century (Chakalte, 2016). Due to glacial melting and the continental drift, Ancient American culture was virtually isolated from the rest of the world for centuries; therefore much of the art and culture is unique to the area it originated. However, despite the Mayans distance from the rest of the word, there are anagolous customs to other ancient civilizations such as hierarchal government and ritualistic religious beliefs (Baaren and Kampen, 1981). The Yaxchilan lord, Shield Jaguar IV, was the final major ruler before the disintegration of the kingdom itself thus solidifying the Relief with Enthroned Ruler as a prized fragment of history.
Baaren, Theodorus Petrus Van., and Michael E. Kampen. Iconography of Religions. Leiden: Brill, 1981.
"Chakalte' | Relief with Enthroned Ruler | Maya | The Met." The Metropolitan Museum of Art, I.e. The Met Museum. Accessed November 09, 2016. http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/313240.
Doyle, James. “Ancient Maya Sculpture.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/mayas/hd_mayas.htm (April 2016)
Foias, Antonia E., and Ronald L. Bishop. "Changing Ceramic Production and Exchange in the Petexbatun Region, Guatemala: Reconsidering the Classic Maya Collapse." Ancient Mesoamerica 8, no. 02 (1997): 275-91. doi:10.1017/s0956536100001735.
Kubler, George. The Art and Architecture of Ancient America; the Mexican, Maya, and Andean Peoples. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1962.