Museum PR Announcements News and Information

Kimbell Art Museum acquires Maya Sculptures

The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth announced the acquisition of two rare Maya Palenque-style ceramic censer stands.

Censer Stand with the Head of a Supernatural Being with a Kan Cross
Censer Stand with the Head of a Supernatural Being with a Kan Cross
Typical of the Maya late Classic period (A.D. 600–900) and dated to about A.D. 690–720, Censer Stand with the Head of the Jaguar God of the Underworld and Censer Stand with the Head of a Supernatural Being with a Kan Cross will be on view in the Museum’s north galleries on Sunday, April 21st. Admission is always free to view works in the Kimbell’s permanent collection.

Palenque-style ceramic censer stands (incensarios) are among the largest and most sophisticated freestanding sculptures created by Maya artists. There are very few in either public or private collections in the U.S. Measuring nearly four feet tall, the Kimbell censer stands are exceptional for their remarkable condition and superb quality of execution.

The sophistication and craftsmanship demonstrated in these stands are indicative of Palenque, a major Maya city-state located in current-day Chiapas, Mexico, that flourished in the seventh century. Ceramic censers were an important component of ritual paraphernalia and ceremonial life at Palenque. Censers were used both to represent and venerate divine beings, primarily the deities of the Palenque Triad. Censers were in two parts: a stand with a tubular body that served as a support; and a brazier-bowl that was placed on top and used for burning copal incense. While the functional brazier was undecorated (and is now often missing, as is the case with both Kimbell acquisitions), the stands were elaborately embellished with a wide variety of iconographic elements. The thematic arrangement depicted on these two censer stands is referred to as the “totem-pole” style and is characterized by a vertical tier of heads modeled in deep relief on the front of the cylinder. The side flanges are decorated with motifs of crossed bands, serpent-wing panels, foliation, knotted bands, stylized ear ornaments and pendant ribbons applied in low relief. Traces of the original blue, red and white pigments are still present on the surface. Though not necessarily conceived as a pair, both censers were undoubtedly made by the same highly skilled court artist.