Description & Technical information

Tecomate - Bowl in the Shape of a Gourd - OLMEC - Mexico - 1150-900 B.C - Pre-Columbian

Height : 9,6 cm

Diameter: 14,5 cm

Diameter of the opening: 6,2 cm

Grey-black clay with black slip with two thin beige bands

Documents (originals) provided to the acquirer:

- Certificate of authenticity of the Galerie Mermoz,

Santo Micali, Expert, (CNE) Compagnie Nationale des Experts

- Certificate of Art Loss Register

- Passport of free circulation

- Thermoluminescence report

- Invoice

This remarkable vase shows all the Olmec’s sensitivity and the skill of the craftsman. Behind its apparent simplicity, it is indeed of a very high aesthetic and technical quality. The care taken in its perfect and refined form, the luster of its delicately polished surface, and the complex engravings which cover it, show that it is more than a domestic object answering a practical function but an artistic form of great value conceived by a master sculptor to become a ritual and ceremonial instrument.


Its engraved decoration makes it an expression apart in the rich repertoire of Olmec ceramics and an object all the more rare. Through it, the vase becomes a sculpture that bears on it its magical and sacred meaning. Careful observation makes it possible to distinguish a cosmological imagery with a jaguar head on one side and a long-beaked bird's head on the other, separated by a design resembling a propeller. In accordance with the beliefs of the Mesoamerican peoples, the first refers to the terrestrial and underground world, and the second refers to the celestial world.


Two circles of beige-orange color are visible on the black-brown vase. The first circle departs the neck, while the second from the base; they both meet at the beak of the bird. This effect is voluntary. It has undoubtedly been obtained by mixing different types and shades of clays.


This bowl is named Tecomate, from the nahuatl word tecomatl meaning calabash. Its wall is thicker at is center and joins at the top to form an oval opening. Its black color results from the use of dark clay, combined with the complex firing technic, called "reduction", which produced this deep shade. Its brilliance has been obtained by careful polishing its surface with quartz or chalcedony.

Date:  1150-900 B.C
Dimensions: 9.6 x 14.5 x 6.2 cm (3³/₄ x 5³/₄ x 2¹/₂ inches)
Categories: Sculpture