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Arts of Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean

Works of art from Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean range from ancient cultures to cutting-edge artists of today. Among the highlights are the Glassell Collection of Pre-Columbian Gold and the museum’s growing collection of modern and contemporary art by Latin American and Latino artists.

Seated Ruler from Stela 11
731 AD
Limestone with traces of paint

53 3/16 x 26 3/4 x 9 5/16 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum purchase

Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, & the Americas

Arts of Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean

Seated majestically on a tall platform throne, this Maya ruler once gazed down on a scene of sacrifice. He is adorned with jewelry. A huge ornamental feathered headdress forms his crown.

This figure was part of a stela, a monumental free-standing stone, erected to commemorate the accession of a leader called Ruler 4 to the throne of Piedras Negras, an ancient Maya city located in present-day Guatemala. He is referred to as Ruler 4 because his name remains untranslated, and he was the fourth in a dynastic lineage of kings. This 28-year-old ruler holds the date 4 Ahau from the Maya calendar in his left hand.

The Maya achieved great skill in art and architecture. The expressive face of Ruler 4, as well as his headdress, hands, and jewelry, have been carved with remarkable sensitivity. The king's folded legs demonstrate an understanding of the advanced art techniques of perspective and foreshortening.