Lot 78
  • 78

Maya Figure of a Lord, Jaina Late Classic, Circa 550-950 AD

125,000 - 175,000 USD
156,250 USD
bidding is closed


  • ceramic


D. Daniel Michel, Chicago, acquired in 1962 (no. 62:076)
Ancient Art of the New World, New York
American Private Collection, acquired from the above in 1991


The Arts Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Chicago Collectors, September 20 - October 27, 1963
Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, temporary loan, 1966
The Arts Club of Chicago, Chicago, High Culture in the Americas before 1500, November 15 - December 31, 1982
The Arts Institute of Chicago, Chicago, The Art of Tribes and Early Kingdoms, January 12 - March 4, 1984


The Arts Institute of Chicago, ed., Chicago Collectors, Chicago, 1963, p. 11 (listed)
Nicholas M. Hellmuth, 'Maya Clay Sculpture of Pre-Columbian Mexico', Apollo, Vol. CIII, No. 169, March 1976, fig. 8
Everett McNear, High Culture in the Americas before 1500, Chicago, 1982, p. 17, fig. 33
Richard F. Townsend, The Art of Tribes and Early Kingdoms, Chicago, 1984, p. 31, cat. no. 67

Catalogue Note

Maya ceramic figures are some of the most intimate and compelling portraits of ancient Maya elite men and women. The figurines have been categorized as Jaina from the coastal region of the Campeche, but recent studies reveal they occur in a broad geographic range and suggest that the figures were part of an important maritime trade network from the Gulf Coast along the Yucatan and Caribbean coast.

This robust and regal lord or priest ranks within the small corpus of extremely tall ceramic figures. He stands in a relaxed yet solemn and focused posture, in anticipation of being dressed in elaborate ceremonial garb. His rank and status are revealed by the minimal but significant attire including the finely woven net loincloth with stepped edge, multiple beaded bracelets, sandals, bead necklace and distinctive quincunx earflares. His coiffure has been prepared into a stiff plume of graduated plaits which resemble the avian headdress of kings shown on relief sculptures, and the coiffure of Pacal the Great from Palenque. The body of the present figure retains some of the post-fire blue pigment. Figures have been found in assemblages that illustrated and recorded rites of passage and accession events; this figure may represent the ritual dressing process of a rulership ceremony.

This Jaina figure and the following lot were highlights of the collection of D. Daniel Michel (1902-2004). Michel was one of the early devotees of Pre-Columbian art in the Chicago community starting in the 1960s. He lent these figures and other Mesoamerican art from his collection to the important early exhibitions at The Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the Arts Club of Chicago.

For a highly similar figure from the Jay C. Leff Collection, see Easby, Ancient Art from Latin America, 1967, fig. 479.