Position Change

Details of Copan ruler Yax Pax turning.

J_Position Change 1

Late Classic stone drinking cup animating, on turning, the Copan ruler Yax Pax to turn from standing in a profile position, to facing his body towards the viewer. The lord wears an elaborately-feathered vulture headdress extending into a backrack and holds a probable rattle in his right hand.

Animation extracted and adapted from vessel no 40297; Late Classic Stone drinking cup, A.D. 763-820, Travertine; h. 16.3 cm., diam. 15.4 cm. (6 7/16 x 6 1/16 in.); anonymous gift in honour of the Class of 2004; 2002-370. Courtesy of Princeton University Art Museum.

J_Position Change 2

Details of a Classic period black-and-white vase animating, on turning, a seated Maya lord to lift his hand from his knee in astonishment.

The frontally-depicted lord sits cross-legged on a cushion covered in jaguar pelt, his left leg lazily draped over the edge of the cushion; his two representations are separated by a twisted mat band, a symbol of authority. In the first scene, the mat-band frame cuts off the edge of the lord’s right knee and hand resting on it; this lends the image a tension comparable to a tightly coiled spring, which is his next representation, on rotation of the vase, forces the lord’s stance to uncoil and straighten, a surprised, almost startled look on his face.

The lord also lifts his now limp hand from his knee and drapes a waterlily over the edge of the throne cushion with the other. Simultaneously, the lord’s necklace has sprouted a waterlily pointing in the direction the lord is staring and the breath or speech lines issuing from his mouth have enlarged. The lord has also gained supernatural-looking markings to his face. The scene seems to describe the lord having witnessed a supernatural event which has left him startled, possibly entranced.

Animation extracted and adapted from Kerr 1994:592, file no. 4689. 

Inverted details animating a reptilian creature to propel itself forward and swell in size as the vase is turned in the viewer’s hands.
Inverted details of a figure on a vase animated to raise its hands to its head in surprise, when rotated in the viewer’s hands.

J_Position Change 3

Inverted details of a Classic period Southern Maya polychrome from Honduras, which, on rotation, reveal a serpent or skeletal centipede to grow in length, by three scales, and swell in size.

The beast simultaneously extends its tongue, increases the length of its tail feather scrolls and gains more body feathers; moreover, the scrolls initially issuing from its upper fangs now flow back over the top of its head, possibly to indicate loud roaring.

In addition, three feathered scrolls attached to ovals have appeared on its back, as have three feathers on the underside of its body at the back, their number forming a mnemonic to Maya three-part time driving change.

On the original vase, the beast is placed above a black-and-white chevron band, its ‘arrows’ determining the rotational-direction of the ceramic to the right, or clockwise, to activate the animation and transformation of the serpent.

Moreover, a wide band running above the beast reveals three three-stepped mountain structures, containing a squatting figure with diamond-shaped body and small, bald head animated to raise its arm into the air close to its face in a gesture that communicates surprise. The figure’s enclosure, and the space it defines, form gigantic Ik’ or ‘wind’ signs that draw attention to the unseen force or motion of wind accompanying the event.

Finally, in an unusual occurrence, the artist has slightly foreshortened the head of the serpent in relation to its body in its first depiction to create the impression of the creature turning its head out towards the viewer.

Animation extracted and adapted from Kerr 1994:581, file no. 4661.

J_Position Change 4

Classic Maya polychrome visualising the motion of ‘turning back’ when rotated by the viewer. 

Animation extracted and adapted from Kerr 1997:836, file no. 6997.

J_Position Change 5

Details of an incised Olmec drinking cup animating a deity to flatten its cleft-headed headdress while stretching upwards.

Animation extracted and adapted from Benson 1996:202, pl. 40.