Art of the Ancient Americas
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Artist: Unknown

Model of a Ballgame with Spectators

100 B.C.–A.D. 250

Ceramic with pigment

15 × 26 × 45.1 cm (5 7/8 × 10 1/4 × 17 3/4 in.)
Stephen Carlton Clark, B.A. 1903, Fund
Villagers crowd around the edge of a ball court to watch the game within. Men wearing breechcloths and belts and women in skirts, wrap their arm around children and each other. Many huddle in blankets or hold pots. This model was placed inside a tomb, perhaps to commemorate a ballgame in which the deceased took part. Six of the viewers - the four located at one end of the court (to the right) as well as the man climbing the staircase and his companion seated atop it - are modern restorations.
On view
Mexico, Nayarit, Ixtlán del Río Style
Protoclassic Period

Fred H. Olsen (1891–1986), and Florence Quittenton Olsen, Guilford, Conn.; gift in 1973 to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


“Acquisitions, 1973,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin 35, no. 1 (Summer 1974): 77, ill.

Susan B. Matheson, Art for Yale: A History of the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2001), 167–68, fig. 166.

George A. Kubler, ed., Pre-Columbian Art of Mexico and Central America (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1986), 30, 183–84, 357, no. 409, Color pl. 11, fig. 240.

Ronald J. Meyers, “Literature and Sport as Ritual and Fantasy,” Papers on Language and Literature 37, no. 4 (2001): Cover image.

Richard F. Townsend, ed., Ancient West Mexico: Art and Archaeology of the Unknown Past, exh. cat. (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 1998), 162–63, fig. 21.

Helen Pollard, “Recent Research in West Mexican Archaeology,” Journal of Archeological Research 5 (1997): 345–84.

Mary E. Miller and Karl Taube, An Illustrated Dictionary of The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1993), 42–44.

Vernon L. Scarborough and David R. Wilcox, eds., The Mesoamerican Ballgame (Tucson, Ariz.: University of Arizona Press, 1991).

Hasso Von Winning and Olga Hammer, Ancecdotal Sculpture of Ancient West Mexico, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: Ethnic Arts Council of Los Angeles, 1972).

Michael Kan, Clement W. Meighan, and Henry B. Nicholson, Sculpture of Ancient West Mexico: Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima, 2, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1989).

Ted J. Leyenaar and Lee Allen Parsons, Ulama: Het Balspel Bij de Maya’s en Azteken, 2000 v. Chr.–000 n. Chr.: Van Mensenoffer Tot Sport (The Ballgame of the Mayas and Aztecs, 2000 B.C.–2000 A.D.: From Human Sacrifice to Sport) (Leiden, Netherlands: Spruyt, Van Mantgem, & De Does, 1988).

Jacki Gallagher, Companions of the Dead: Tomb Sculpture from Ancient West Mexico, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: Fowler Museum at UCLA, 1983).

Peter T. Furst, West Mexican Art: Secular or Sacred? The Iconography of Middle American Sculpture (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1973), 98–133.

Betty Bell, ed., The Archaeology of West Mexico (Ajijic, Mexico: West Mexican Society for Advanced Study, 1974).

Salvador Toscano and Federico Canessi, Arte Precolombino del Occidente de Mexico (Mexico City: Dirección General de Educación Extra-Escolar y Estética, 1946).

Handbook of the Collections, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1992), 314, ill.

Mary E. Miller, The Art of Mesoamerica: From Olmec to Aztec, 5th ed. (London: Thames and Hudson, 2012), 67, fig. 55.

“New Acquisitions Issue,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin 24, no. 1 (April 1958): 16, ill.

Alan Shestack, ed., Yale University Art Gallery Selections (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1983).

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.