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PROPERTY FROM A EUROPEAN PRIVATE COLLECTION

Zapotec Figural Urn of the Butterfly God
Monte Alban III A, Classic, Circa 200 - 600 AD
Estimate
30,00040,000
LOT SOLD. 200,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
70

PROPERTY FROM A EUROPEAN PRIVATE COLLECTION

Zapotec Figural Urn of the Butterfly God
Monte Alban III A, Classic, Circa 200 - 600 AD
Estimate
30,00040,000
LOT SOLD. 200,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Art of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

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New York

Zapotec Figural Urn of the Butterfly God
Monte Alban III A, Classic, Circa 200 - 600 AD

Provenance

David H. Bramhall, New York
European Private Collection, acquired from the above on November 16, 1982

Exhibited

Denver Art Museum, Denver, long term loan, 1998-2017

Catalogue Note

The golden age of the Zapotec kingdom was established in Epoch III by AD 200, with the capital of Monte Alban reigning as the largest city in southern Mexican highlands for the next 500 years. The coqui (rulers or hereditary lords) lived in large, sumptuous palaces and residences, decorated with architectural niches where such incensarios would have been placed. The figural urns are considered depictions of the rulers adorned with the massive jewelry and headdresses associated with deities. The figural urns, 'many of which are one-of-a kind masterpieces […] provided a venue to which the pèe, or animate spirit, of these heroes and royal ancestors could return.' (Marcus & Flannery, Zapotec Civilization, 1996, p. 209).

This figural urn portrays an elegant and proud finely sculpted face surmounted by an extremely ornate and layered symbolic headdresses. It is covered in rich orange-red pigment that gives equal measure to the chiseled features of the idealized youthful face, and the massive headdress of the Butterfly God.

The Butterfly god is identified by feather rimmed eyes and the tightly coiled proboscis rising above. An additional nahualli of the Jaguar god is shown with the snarling and fanged mouth mask centered between. The figure is adorned with characteristic arching plumes, tassels and beaded jewelry. The butterfly is associated with warfare and rebirth, perhaps linked to its resilience and transformative nature.

The Butterfly god is a direct influence from Teotihuacan, the equally powerful city reigning in the Classic era. Images of the butterfly appear on massive headdresses shown in murals, mirror-backs and incensarios in the Palace of Quetzapapltotl ('Quetzal-Butterfly') in Teotihuacan. For examples of similar figural urns of  the deity with the Butterfly God headdress, see Boos, the Ceramic Sculptures of Ancient Oaxaca, 1966, figs. 106, 110 & 112.

Art of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

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New York