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13

Colima Vessel with Crayfish, Protoclassic, circa 100 BC - AD 250

Estimate:

35,000 - 50,000 USD

Property from a Private Collection

Colima Vessel with Crayfish, Protoclassic, circa 100 BC - AD 250

Colima Vessel with Crayfish, Protoclassic, circa 100 BC - AD 250

Estimate:

35,000 - 50,000 USD

Authenticity guarantee

What is guaranteed?

Property from a Private Collection

Colima Vessel with Crayfish, Protoclassic, circa 100 BC - AD 250


Height: 12 1/8 in (30.8 cm)

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Jay C. Leff, Uniontown, Pennsylvania, acquired prior to 1966
Sotheby's, New York, May 12, 1983, lot 88, consigned by the above
Private Collection, New York, acquired at the above auction
Private Collection, acquired by descent from the above 

Elizabeth Kennedy Easby, Ancient Art of Latin America from the Collection of Jay C. Leff, New York, 1966, p. 56, cat. no. 288
Michael Kan, Pre-Columbian Art of Mesoamerica from the Collection of Jay C. Leff, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 1972, unpaginated, cat. no. 94
Katheryn M. Linduff, Ancient Art of Middle America: Selections from the Jay C. Leff Collection, Huntington, West Virginia, 1974, p. 86, cat. no. 114
The Brooklyn Museum, Ancient Art of Latin America from the Collection of Jay C. Leff, November 22, 1966 - March 5, 1967
Allentown Art Museum, Pre-Columbian Art of Mesoamerica from the Collection of Jay C. Leff, February 13 - April 2, 1972
Huntington Galleries, West Virginia, Ancient Art of Middle America: Selections from the Jay C. Leff Collection, February 17 - June 9, 1974

The tall, elegant bottle is suspended between four crayfish with their slender forelegs outstretched on the vessel walls. The flared tails are the sole supports with each plump crustacean's body tapering upward with the small eyes modeled between the projections on the head. The long straight neck is capped by the flaring rim.

The natural resources of ancient west Mexico were an endless inspiration in the ceramic arts of the Protoclassic era. The flora and fauna of the various ecological niches were essential food sources and the small Mexican freshwater crayfish (genus Cambaroididae) that inhabited brooks swamps and streams, were considered a delicacy.

The importance of the plant and animal world to the indigenous population was evident to the 16th century Spaniards, who produced important texts based on interviews with the native population. These documents listed hundreds of plants and their native names, and particularly their uses, including medicinal, building materials, poison, dyes, soaps, etc. (Schondube, p. 208). 

Vessels so distinctly formed as bottles were likely made to hold the ceremonial pulque beverage or one made from cacao. The design of how the crayfish are placed suggests the gesture of offering the vessel in a reverent posture. As with many Comala effigy vessels, they are both functional ceramics and sculptures honoring the animals or plants portrayed.


For a vessel with crayfish modeled on the shoulder, see Richard F. Townsend, ed., Ancient West MexicoArt and Archaeology of the Unknown Past, p. 215, fig. 28. For two vessels in the form of crayfish, see Hasso von Winning, PreColumbian Art of Mexico and Central America, New York, 1968, p. 99, fig. 95; and Kristi Butterwick, Heritage of Power: Ancient Sculpture from West Mexico, the Andrall E. Pearson Family Collection, New York, 2004, p. 68, cat. no. 24.

For a highly similar vessel type on fish supports, see Michael Kan, Clement Meighan, and H. B. Nicholson, eds., Sculpture of Ancient West Mexico: Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima, The Proctor Stafford Collection, Los Angeles, 1970, p. 99, cat. no. 165.


Exhibition photo credit: Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Photography. Ancient Art of Latin America, from the Collection of Jay C. Leff. [11/22/1966 - 03/05/1967]. Installation view: western Mexico. Dog with human mask, horned head, head beaker, jar, captive figure jar.