Polychromed jar, Costa Rica

, 11th-16th century


4 1/2 in. (11.6 cm)


About this object

The terracotta work of Costa Rica from the early to mid-second millenium CE follows in the footsteps of a ceramic tradition that dates back to some of the earliest pottery in the Americas. During the last few centuries prior to the Spanish conquest, numerous ceramic styles were produced in the Greater Nicoya region of Costa Rica that were strongly inspired in form and decoration by ceramic traditions in the Maya area and central Mexico. The Nicoya ceramic style is polychromatic; the richness of color, as well as the variety of motifs on the pottery, reflect what must have been an opulent, well-nourished society.

This splendid Nicoya globular vase with neck speaks of an indigenous culture steeped in creative expression. With a series of precisely painted black and red parallel lines on a light background, this vase shows us the timelessness and universality of decorative patterns.

Doris Stone, ‘A Synthesis of Pre-Columbian Ceramics from Costa Rica’, in: Lois Katz, Art of Costa Rica: Pre-Columbian Painted and Sculpted Ceramics from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, Washington, D.C. 1985, pp. 201-221.