SCULPTED THRONE BACK. A.D. 600-900, Guatemala or Mexico. Click image to enlarge.
A scene of quiet but intense concentration, or consultation, between three strongly silhouetted figures, masterfully sculpted in a limestone throne back. A bearded king (on the right) in the guise of the sky god Itzamnaaj, accompanied (on the left) by either his wife (or a courtier or a goddess) lean in to hear a small avian deity seated between them. The diminutive creature, a Pax God (named for the Mayan month of Pax) with its human body, winged arms and jaguar deity’s head, is a messenger from the sky god. This extraordinary artwork depicts the close links between the Maya court and the supernatural world, the close relationship of king’s to divine power. What message from the god might the royals be hearing? Perhaps a command regarding war and death, considering that the Pax deity was associated with war and blood sacrifice. Or maybe a subject more mundane? Note the woman’s gesture: the back of her left hand touches the Pax God. Is she gently comforting the visitor after its long journey? Or merely reiterating (for us the viewer) the equality and familiarity shared by Maya royalty and their gods.