Plate with rattle feet

Late Classic Period
A.D. 650–750

Place of Origin: Department of El Petén, Guatemala, Yaxhá-Holmul-Xultún area


Overall: 38.1 × 38.1 × 12.4 cm (15 × 15 × 4 7/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Earthenware; pink, black and orange slip decoration

On View

Ancient Central America Gallery (Gallery LG32)





Tripod plate with tall, cylindrical supports. Its interior surface is painted with the image of a Maya lord dancing in front of a bench throne which is decorated with sky signs. The lord peers into a divination mirror which is set atop the bench and leaning against a stack of cloth topped by long, quetzal bird feathers, both of which represent tribute or a gift received by the lord. The black background of the scene may indicate the event is taking place at night or a supernatural location.

The interior wall of the plate are divided into 4 sections by short, vertical, pseudo-glyph texts, each section embellished with a profile saurian head that likely provides locational information for the depicted event.

The exterior wall of the plate is painted with large blood or water scrolls on a black background, which may indicate an underworld or supernatural location for the event.

“Supported on tall rattle feet, the tondo boldly painted with a corpulent lord standing before a large bench throne, looking over his right shoulder with strong arms in a gesture, wearing loincloth, jade necklace and earrings, the headdress of a snouted monster head with thick feather panache at back, the bench laden with tribute including a stack of bound codices, a plumed perforator resting on top, and a mirror propped against them, the rim encircled by four bands each with a profile head of the long-lipped monster, the exterior rim decoratively painted with alternating scroll and mat motifs/ the whole with areas highlighted by pink pigment against the black and orange.” [from Sotheby’s catalogue text]

A ruler’s primary responsibility was to channel supernatural forces through vision quests (journeys to the spiritual realms) in order to affect human affairs. Here, a lord gazes into a divining mirror and dances before a throne embellished with celestial icons. The stack of valuable cloth, quetzal-bird feathers, and rare, spondylus shells on the throne indicate his political and economic success. Vision serpents, conduits to the supernatural realm and conveyors of visions, adorn the plate’s interior.


Acquired in New York sometime before the early 1980s by a private collector (according to both Sotheby's and the family of the seller's estate this object was in his New York apartment for decades); sold Sotheby's, New York, Sale N07996, lot 192, May 14, 2004; to the MFA, June 2004, purchase.

Credit Line

Gift of Lavinia and Landon T. Clay