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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Toltec Art : Toltec Bat Effigy Vessel
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Toltec Bat Effigy Vessel - PF.4588
Origin: Mexico
Circa: 900 AD to 1200 AD
Dimensions: 7.5" (19.1cm) high x 5.125" (13.0cm) wide
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Medium: Terracotta

Location: United States
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The Toltec civilization first gained ascendany in the Valley of Mexico around 900 A.D., after the fall of Teotihuacan. Although their origins and early history are obscure, the Toltecs appear to have ancient ties to both the Mixtec and the Zapotec. The word Toltec means “master builders” in the Nahuatl language, a testament to the sophistication of Toltec constructions. Their art and architecture was highly influenced by Teotihuacan as well as the ancient Olmec culture. The Toltecs were technologically advanced, capable of smelting metals. Their stonework was impeccable as the ruins of Tula demonstrate. This archaeological site is believed to be Tollan, the legendary capital of the Toltec civilization referred to in a number of postconquest sources. Their social structure was headed by an elite class of warriors. Excavation have uncovered the ceremonial center that included a pyramid structure topped by a temple dedicated to the hero-god Quetzalcoatl.

The definition of art is complex, yet its variety throughout the world allows us to learn about these complexities. The art of Mexico is one of the most variable forms of art known today. Each region and period had its own distinct style, allowing a certain presence to continue throughout the many years of its stylistic existence. This beautifully delicate piece demonstrates just one of the breathtaking styles that can be found in Mexico. A bat effigy, which indicates the center portion of the vessel, stares stoically ahead while combining sculptural qualities and low relief. Elevated onto a simple pedestal, the decoration remains understated, using only geometric patterning, such as line variation. The pedestal reveals numerous incisions, allowing the small earthenware balls inside to echo and reverberate when moved. Such a device is most commonly found in vessels, which are used for ceremonial purposes, resonating a melodic sound that symbolizes its function and importance within the ceremony. The pale pink earthenware from which the vessel is made, subtly pick up the undertones of the piece, bringing the piece to its full fruition. Remnants of paint remain on the outer rims of the piece, indicating vibrant pink and blue, reviving the vessel with brilliant color. The motif continues around to the back of the vessel, creating a sculptural effect, clearly intending it to be seen from all angles. When combined, these elements create an amazing and beautiful work of art, one that has been able to stand the test of time with grace and dignity while simultaneously representing the stylistic ideas of that time. - (PF.4588)


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