CEREMONIAL PALMA REPRESENTING A GREAT RICHLY ADORNED SOVEREIGN

Height : 45.3 cm – Width from the side : 24 cm

Depth : 18.2 cm

Grey trachyandesite with a brown patina

Provenance

Former Everett Rassiga, New York, since 1969

Former Olman Gutierrez, Miami, since 1986

Collection Galerie Mermoz since 2021

 

This impressive stone head is a palma from the Maya area, believed to have been used in ceremonies surrounding ball game tournaments, a ritual sport practiced throughout Mesoamerica, referred to as Pok-a-Tok by the Maya. This piece is extremely rare, as the majority of ceremonial palmas originate from the Veracruz region on the Gulf Coast.

This rare work is distinguished by the beauty and the noble attitude of the figure, whose features have been marvelously rendered by the artist, and by the numerous and imposing ornaments that he wears: a sumptuous necklace, sophisticated ear ornaments, and this immense headdress, which indicates that we are looking at the portrait of a very great king and a ritual object of great importance.

Such an object, particularly sensitive and elaborate, made on a dense volcanic rock, with a remarkable luxury of details, represents a tour de force, which testifies to the technical level reached in the classical period (600-900 A.D.), the golden age of the great Maya civilization.

This noble face shows the physiognomy of the Mayan men, recognizable by their receding foreheads and long aquiline noses, framed by stretched and slightly inclined eyes. This convex profile is the result of the cranial deformations that were common in Mesoamerica, among the elites.

Majestic headdress, imposing necklace and elaborate earrings: a ROYAL panoply

The conical shape of our lord's headdress appears monumental. Worked in a highly stylized manner, it covers his entire head and conceals his forehead. At its base, a narrow band probably represents a tiara encircling the entire head. The end of this tiara is visible behind the ear and its spiral shape is noteworthy. The vertical engravings on the upper part of this headdress probably represent long feathers, like those of the quetzal, a sacred bird associated with royalty among the Maya. 

Mayan dignitaries used to show their status and power by wearing sumptuous plumes of feathers provided by the many exotics local birds. These were a superb decorative element and an important symbolic support, linking the kings and lords to the celestial world and to the higher powers, of which the birds were the ambassadors.

On the front of the headdress, there is a sort of pediment that is lower than the feathers, which seems to be there to hold them in place. This element is accompanied, in its upper part, by an elongated appendage in relief and, in the lower part, by a thick semicircle placed on the tiara.

 

To complete this royal panoply, our lord wears a very imposing necklace, so imposing that it completely conceals his neck, an ornament that testifies, just like the headdress, to his extremely important rank. This one is made of 17 elements, wide and flared on the front (under the face), becoming progressively smaller and rectangular as one gets closer to the nape of the neck... the subtle representation of an optical effect, which testifies to the ingenuity of the sculptor. The way the sculptor has extended this necklace, to behind the ears, gives the feeling that it is attached to the headdress.

 

The elements composing this necklace probably represent plates of jade, a sacred stone with which the Maya made, for their dignitaries, ornaments and talismans of great beauty, coupled, according to them, with magical powers related to water and fertility because of its beautiful bright green and translucent color.