Princeton University Art Museum

Form and Style

Pre-Columbian art is renowned for its pervasive use of terra-cotta as a medium and many outstanding pieces can be seen at the Princeton University Art Museum. Production of the effigy censer was inspired by a reverent appreciation for what clay itself offered the artist as a product of nature. Kinship with the simple vessel is revealed in the body, which was built up meticulously from coils. Working this way, the artist carefully planned for the natural weight and sag of the wet clay in conceiving such a massive human image while simultaneously considering the mechanics of a chimney to send the gift of perfumed smoke to the spirit forces he intended to propitiate. No less significant a contribution, however, was the endowment of the effigy with a mirthful quality, a three-dimensional
Image of Codex Borgia.
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Codex Borgia depicts a lord and lady drinking chocolate from ceramic bowls. They are typical of the Nahua-Mixteca style with enlarged heads and hands attached to wire-like limbs.
interpretation of the Nahua-Mixteca style exemplified in surviving Pre-Columbian codices. The bodily proportions were exaggerated by modeling an overly large head with a broad triangular face pressed from a mold, contrasted by the diminutive tube-like appendages rolled from slabs. The ears are composed of simple rectangular panels pierced by cylindrical ornaments. Contrasting with the playful form is the sense of a profound ritual act captured by the depiction of blood-shot eyes fixed in a trance-like stare, a representation of the effects of hallucinogenic intoxication.
Image of a terra cotta pot.
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Eastern Nahua Bowl portraying the goddess Xochiquetzal A.D. 1300-1500. (2004-28) Photography by Bruce M. White.
Image of Eastern Nahua Serving Jar
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Eastern Nahua Serving jar in the form of an eagle together with a bowl ornamented with a textile design A.D. 1300-1500. (1990-13, 2006-65) Photography by Bruce M. White.
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