Lintel 3 Restored

And Why

By: M. L. B.

Originally Published in 1936

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LINTEL 3, very generally granted to be among the finest achievements of the Maya Sculptors, was discovered in a much damaged condition. In order to make the scene depicted more comprehensible and thus to gain an insight into the costume, ornaments and utensils used at such a date, M. Louise Baker was asked to make the accompanying restoration. Her long experience in painting examples of Maya pottery and her familiarity with many other aspects of Maya archaeology equipped her beyond all others for the task. She has provided the following note to explain various phases of her finished illustration.

A RESTORATION always invites criticism. To be sure, the Critic has the same right to his own conclusions, as does the Artist-only the latter has had the advantage of time and opportunity to study first hand, every inch and angle of the original.

Drawing of a restoration of a lintel showing many figures and bordered by hieroglyphs
Restoration of Lintel 3
From Piedras Negras, Guatemala
Museum Object Number: CG2017-7-1474
Image Number: 19374, 19375

In this drawing no glyphs were restored, excepting the fourth and fifth on the left, which were kindly supplied by Dr. S. G. Morley.

The head-dresses were suggested by, or copied from Guatemala stelae. The elaborate bonnet of the Chief is a composite from Piedras Negras, fitting in with bits of the original.

The figures are mainly cut in the round, with a substantial attachment to the background. The Chief’s right arm and purpose are so interpreted, after long consideration. The lines of the shoulder and posture of the body suggest an outstretched arm; the two lower holes in the oblong boss, on the screen behind, show that the drill entered at a slant in order to miss the extended arm. That the hand held something attached to the upper corner of the screen is evident-but what?-so the ornate mace was introduced as a possible connection. The broken masses on the dais may have been receptacles, perhaps filled with copal or fruit; one undoubtedly was a tripod vase.

A deteriorated lintel with many figures and a border of hieroglyphs
Restoration of Lintel 3
From Piedras Negras, Guatemala
A photograph of the Lintel before restoration is shown on the right
Image Number: 19373

The costumes of the trio at the left were cut in the style of the day. The sense of humor displayed in this stone was a delightful surprise. Two of the trio, forgetful of the occasion, are entirely absorbed in their own argument, while the third, indignantly bracing himself upon out-spread feet, gives a vicious bump with his hip (breaking his own obsequious pose for the moment), demanding attention. The seated figures are very human in manner and detail. The left dignitary gently pokes the friend in front to ask what it is all about; the friend, willing to accommodate, vainly tries to peer over the intervening mass of feathers, bracing himself on his foot, in his effort to see-a taut neck-line giving the cue; the next man complacently toys with his tassel, his sleek, round body oozing contentment; the fourth in line is a lean, capable young man, to whom the Chief is evidently directing his words and attention; the fifth, the Patriarch of the row, has slumped in the shadow of his Master, his fan arrested in mid-air; the sixth, holding his vase upon his knee, absent-mindedly fingers his beads; the last man, and the only one whose face was not completely destroyed, has lost interest after a fruitless attempt to hear and his hand has probably dropped from cupping his ear to toying with his ear-plug.

The group on the right was the most difficult. An attachment for a foot was finally discovered, proving that four figures instead of three were filling the niche. The comparative height of knees gave evidence that two boys, a youth and a grown attendant comprised the party. Anatomically, it is impossible to group them otherwise.

Of course, the restoration gives the impression of newness-but also shows what the lintel may have been, fresh from the chisel. The exquisite detail in the original, even to the nails on the supporting hand of the Chief, must be seen to be appreciated.

M. L. B.

Cite This Article

B., M. L.. "Lintel 3 Restored." Museum Bulletin VI, no. 4 (May, 1936): 120-121. Accessed July 25, 2024.

This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

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