Description This blackware bowl, created by people of the Olmec culture of southern Mexico (flourished ca. 1500 BCE – 300 BCE) shows the ancient civilization's sophisticated belief systems, artistic traditions, and networks of trade. The apparently simple, non-figurative design actually shows an abstracted image of a mythical creature known as the “Olmec dragon.” It combined features of different powerful predators of the region, including the harpy eagle, crocodile, and jaguar. The horizontal and vertical lines here show the fast-moving body and tufted eyebrows of this creature. The red pigment here is the mercury compound cinnabar, brought from sources hundreds of miles away.
Provenance Fine Arts of Ancient Lands, New York [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Private collection, March 1990 [mode of acquisition unknown]; Walters Art Museum, 2008, by gift.
Credit Anonymous gift, 2008
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