48 - 48 ii -i Ei i ii i I ARiNA5 US

ZAPOTECPOTTERY By E. P. RICHARDSON Educational Secretary,The Detroit Institute of

CLAY and its wiles have been left severely and , and a quantity of funer- alone by many of the sculptors who ary urns. They seem to have been independ- are trying to restore sculpture as a mas- ent of the when the Spaniards came. culine . The soft sweetnesses of sculp- Little else is known. The recent spectacu- ture before the war have somehow brought lar finds at their city of Monte Alban are the medium, as as the men who used it, described as a intrusion into a Zapo- a reputation for sentimentality. Yet tec site, but the excavations will undoubted- in the form of terra cotta has greater capaci- ly reveal more about Zapotec culture. At ties for energetic and forceful treatment than present, it is only the peculiar brilliance of almost any other medium. It was used with their tradition that can be studied. great effectiveness by the pre-Columbian ar- All pre-Columbian art is at a disadvantage tists of America and especially in the work in competing with European art for popular of the Zapotecs, reached a unique pitch of interest. Whatever romantic interest may be power that is worth notice in an age that attached to the jungle-covered of worships energy. forgotten cities, it is not carried over to This is not an attempt to define Zapotec the . Zapotec urns have no pic- art, but simply to speak of the remarkable turesque history as a background, no combination of explosive energy and coher- interest of subject. Their subjects are fre- ence which Zapotec plastic art achieved. quently the gods of an unknown religion, Very little is as yet known of this race treated with an elaborate that which historically and geographically occupied a position half way between the Maya cul- Left (figture 1) ture of central America and the cultures FUNERARY URN OF SEATED of the Mexican plateaus. They left behind FIGURE FROM A ZAPOTECAN them in the ruins of two imposing TOMB AT OAXACA, MEXICO cities, a few extraordinary painted manu- In the collection of the American Mu- scripts, a little work in stone, , copper, seum of , New York r Ml TOURING THE LEADING AMERICAN CIITIES

Memorial , Roches- ter, New York, March 4 to 31 Buffalo of Art, Buf- falo, New York, April 15 to May 15 THE ART OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN

under the auspices of the

EXPOSITION OF INDIAN TRIBAL ARTS, INC. Endorsed by and circulated through the College Art Association

A comprehensive and carefully selected dis- HOPI COILED AND PLAQUE play of , pottery, textiles and a of 400 jewelry, covering period years Exposition of Indian Tribal Arts, Inc. of and craftsmanship. 24 Permanent Office, 578 Madison Ave., New York famous tribes represented. TheExposition will Tour the UnitedStates for twoyears. L I PAtNASU4S - 49 makes them doubly obscure. Even human repetition in scale. The staccato vehemence the lines of fingers and toes, together with subjects are highly stylised and the hawk- of the treatment is superb. For variety a the pectoral, are used to bring -the plain like Indian faces which look out from be- second motive is introduced in the circles bulk of the body into relation with the upper neath their feathered crowns are stern and which, repeated whole or in arcs, make up half without destroying its value as a con- reserved. They neither smile, charm with the earplugs, the frontal of the headdress, trast. The face has a fierce impersonal in- their physical grace, nor stir with action. the pectoral and other details. tensity one is not surprised to see in a rep- Yet as plastic art their overwhelming char- The development of two simple motives resentative of a -building race. acteristic is their vitality. into a of such richness, movement and The toothless old man (Figure III) is an The pottery urn illustrated in Figure I exceptional piece. The lively wrinkled old is typical of Zapotec work. It represents a face beneath a cap in the form of a peccary man seated cross-legged, wearing a feather head, in spite of the blunt stylisation of the headdress, a short cape over his shoulders, body, gives the effect of a genre , and an embroidered loin cloth. A over shrewdly narrating the character of a boun- the upper part of the face, ear plugs and cing, nervous, fussy, talkative old man. pectoral (characteristic Zapotec jewelry) of The Composite Bat-Dog urn (Figure IV) exaggerated size, and bracelets, add to the is the best example of the furious vitality complexity of the figure. The back is treated of Zapotec work. It is one of a pair found as a plane, from which swells out a cylin- in a temple facing each other across drical urn forming the trunk of the man. an empty niche, where the of the Urns of this form are found buried in tomb principal deity once stood. The significance mounds, generally in groups of five or seven, of this astonishing creature was suggested and in such places as over the or in by Dr. J. Alden Mason in an article in the the floor before the door, never within the Museum Journal of the University of Penn- tomb chamber. They are always found sylvania, June, 1929, p. 182, from analogies empty and their function is obscure. The in Maya thought. "The Bat God was one figure is built up by moulds and by - of the important deities of the Maya, many ing of a heavy blueish clay. The pottery elements of whose religion were shared also is thick and unpainted but is usually coated by the Zapotec. The Bat God in particular with a white . is known to have been revered also by the Both figure and costume are convention- Zapotec, but was not recognized by the Tol- alized to create a design which seems at first tec and Aztec of the Valley of Mexico. He

Above (figure 2) SEATED FIGURE, FUNERARY URN In the University Museum, Philadelphia

Left (figure 3) FUNERARY URN OF OLD MAN WITH PECCARY HEAD CAP In the University Museum, Philadelphia

Right (figure 4) COMPOSITE BAT-DOG URN In the University Museum, Philadelphia

confusingly luxuriant, yet is basically simple. coherence is a triumph of inventiveness. was especially associated, among the Maya at The knees, cape, and brim of headdress The tempo of its clash and interlock of least, with the underworld, and with wor- make three horizontal bands across the ver- shapes is distinctive of the Zapotecs among ship of, and in, . It is therefore quite tical axis of the body. But across this New World arts. The pure Maya art of the natural that bat figures should be encountered rigid frame of line there radiates from the Old Empire is brilliant and profuse, with a in a cave temple. The dog, among the Maya, center a sunburst of finger-like shapes that strong easy grace of line running through was considered to be connected with death, burst out triumphantly in the plumed head- and organizing its maze of interlinked parts. and to be the messenger to prepare the way dress. Starting in the small, sharp rectangles reliefs are brusque and angular, formed to the hereafter." of the teeth, the shapes become larger and of small, emphatic parts hung loosely to- But whatever mythological symbolism has longer with each repetition upward in the gether like gaudy upon a string. The gone with a religion vanished centuries ago, nose-piece and plumes. Downward they are Zapotec lies between them, at once staccato the beast has lost none of its bristling reality. drawn across the cape in ribbon-like lines; and fluent. The outward swelling contours are tense then becoming suddenly large, are carried on Urn figures are usually, however, less com- with fantastic life; the eyes glitter, the lungs in the shapes of arms and trunk as well as plicated than this. The seated subject (Fig- swell to utter some astounding sound. The the openings between, and so into the fingers, ure II) is again an arrangement of arcs and decorative stylisation of details, the balance toes, and the band of on the loin raying lines but into their swift movements of large and small elements, the strange and cloth. The one motive is carried through comes the simple mass of the body. It is salty life of the creature, are the evidence all these variations without anywhere a extremely interesting to see with what skill of a powerful and distinctive plastic tradition.