Tripod plate

Late Classic Period
A.D. 672–830

Object Place: Department of Petén, Guatemala, Naranjo-Holmul area

Catalogue Raisonné

MS0605; Kerr 5723


Overall: 14 x 33 cm (5 1/2 x 13 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Earthenware: red, orange, and black on cream slip

On View

Ancient Central America Gallery (Gallery LG32)





Large plate with three tall, cylindrical supports (“legs”), each containing a rattle sphere of clay. Painted in the Holmul-style of eastern Guatemala, the image features the Maize god dancing at creation when he set the Three Stones of the cosmic hearth. These stones also are represented by the three attached cup-like forms on the interior of the plate as well as by the legs, painted in a striped black-and-white pattern that symbolizes stone among such Mesoamerican cultures as the Mixtec of Oaxaca. The Maize god dances on an area painted in a cross-hatched motif with fire curls which may portray the fire of creation in the darkness of the pre-creation era. The exterior walls of the plate echo this theme, being decorated with the black-painted waters of the antedeluvian sea and waterlilies.

The bottom of the plate is painted with a red circle at its center, which depicts the fire of the cosmic hearth of creation. The long hieroglyphic text eludes full decipherment, but it includes the local version of the Primary Standard sequence, a dedicatory phrase, and may name a male member of the Holmul nobility.

This rare plate portrays the Maize god dancing at Three-Stone-Place. The white cups symbolize the three stones, and the hearth’s creative fire is rendered as a red circle on the underside of the plate.


By 1965, private collection, Costa Rica and later Miami; 1965, sold from this private collection in Miami to a private American collection; December 6, 2005, consigned for sale, Christie's, Paris (sale no. 5329), lot 450, unsold; 2006, sold by Christie's, New York to the MFA. (Accession Date: March 22, 2006)

The plate was exhibited at the Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC, in 1980; tested at Brookhaven National Laboratories, 1981, as part of the Maya Survey database and given # MS0605; photographed by Justin Kerr, New York, before 1992 and given Kerr #5723; exhibited in Painting the Maya Universe (Duke University, January 15-March 27, 1994; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, April 15- June 26, 1994; Denver Art Museum, July 15-September 15, 1994; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, October 8, 1994-January 8, 1995; Yale University Art Museum, February 10, April 23, 1995), and was exhibited at Christie's, New York, November 10-15, 2005 and in Paris, December 2-5, 2005.

Credit Line

Museum purchase with funds donated by Lavinia and Landon T. Clay