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Yet a change occurs in the visual culture of the Maya during the AD 600s.A fascination seems to grow for the ocular experience itself, with what the eye can see from a particular vantage point, with how materials respond to gravity, a body mass slumps, a cloth folds and wrinkles, how feathers wave to wind or movement.
, Xcalumkin-area, Campeche, Mexico (Kimbell Art Museum, K8017; cf. Panel 4 from Piedras Negras intensifies the discomfort by showing a captive who not only looks out at the viewer but hangs his head upside down, a frequent position for trophy heads on warrior’s bodies (Figure 4).Xcalumkin Lintel 1: M1–N1); C) baby splayed for sacrifice (K1247); D) exhausted captive (? Mary Miller pointed out to me long ago that Maya artists had a far freer and more innovative hand in playing with depictions of captives.Logically, those bodies were also the way to experiment with displays of emotion (Houston 2001).[Note 1] There are exceptions, to be sure, ones that transport the spectator across the fourth wall.A monkey might look out from a perch on a mythic mountain, as cheeky as any Rajput beast, or an owl from under the bed of a cuckolded god. Perhaps the Maya did so to emphasize their sight or to evoke the conventions of the distant city of Teotihuacan [some of the earliest glyphs with frontal owls occur in personal names linked to that far place]; Figure 2A, B). One is a tortured captive looking out plaintively in an image where everyone else seems to ignore the viewer (Figure 2C). The lateral flow of events is consistent with these paintings.
Commissioned in the early 1700s by some Rajput prince, the miniature had a devotional use, but it also served to entertain and instruct, as revealed “on special occasions” to “the eyes of connoisseurs” (Jain-Neubauer 1981:9).
Even his hat is slightly risible, and the image in general expresses an important record of one major kingdom abasing itself before another.
The frontal view of a face or body as a sign of misery is hardly common in Maya art.
Was there a hint of pity in these images or was it simply Accentuating the frame of a scene–or escaping its limitations–brings up an important feature of Maya imagery.
There is a sustained intent to preserve and maintain clarity, to be complete and also, with texts, completely legible or viewable.
This is especially clear in two areas of production: the school of painters around the western side of Lake Peten Itza in northern Guatemala (involving the so-called “Ik’ site,” identified by titles clearly applicable to a number of different places in that region), and another to the north, in association with the powerful dynasty of Calakmul (Figures 6 and 7). The painted texts on clothing in the Bonampak murals show the same illusionistic game.