Saint Louis Art Museum Presents Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea

  • ST. LOUIS, Missouri
  • /
  • January 06, 2011

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Incense burner with a deity with aquatic elements, 700–750; Palenque, Mexico; ceramic; 46 3/4 x 22 1/4 x 7 7/8 in.; Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes - Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Museo de Sitio de la Zona Arqueológia de Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico, 10-604759. Courtesy Peabody Essex Museum, photograph © Jorge Pérez de Lara

The Saint Louis Art Museum will bring Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea, a breathtaking exhibition showcasing more than 90 works of Maya art to its galleries on February 13, 2011. The works on view, many shown for the first time in the United States are from Mexico, Belize, Honduras and Guatemala and reveal the ancient Maya people’s powerful fascination with the seas around them.

The Museum will host a media preview of the exhibition on Friday, February 11 by appointment only. To schedule a personal tour, obtain images or request an interview please contact Leigh Hamer, media relations officer, at 314.655.5493 or

The more than 90 works on view demonstrate the importance that the Maya placed on water, surrounded as they were by the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean and create what New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Holland Cotter calls an “unforgettably dramatic” exhibition. These dazzling images of sea monsters, maritime battles, fish and water deities illustrate the complexity the Maya had long been known for in language, mathematics and culture and illuminate new ways in which this ancient culture viewed the cosmos.

The artifacts on view date from the Preclassic period to as recently as the colonial period in the 16th century. The works were selected by the exhibition’s organizers, Daniel Finamore, the Russell W. Knight curator of maritime art and history at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM), and Stephen D. Houston, the Dupee family professor of social science and professor of anthropology and archaeology at Brown University.

Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea will be on view February 13, 2011 to May 8, 2011 in the Main Exhibition Galleries at the Saint Louis Art Museum. The exhibition was curated in St. Louis by Matthew H. Robb, assistant curator of ancient American and Native American art.

Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea is organized by the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA, and has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Because democracy demands wisdom. Additional support was provided by ECHO (Education through Cultural and Historical Organizations), a program of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Innovation and Improvement. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. Exhibition support has been provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

The Saint Louis Art Museum is one of the nation’s leading comprehensive art museums with collections that include works of art of exceptional quality from virtually every culture and time period. Areas of notable depth include Oceanic art, pre-Columbian art, ancient Chinese bronzes and European and American art of the late 19th and 20th centuries, with particular strength in 20th-century German art. The Museum offers a full range of exhibitions and educational programming generated independently and in collaboration with local, national and international partners. 

Transforming Your Museum

Gallery closures and art movement throughout the Museum are anticipated as we make progress toward our exciting expansion project. Thanks for your patience.

Admission to the Saint Louis Art Museum is free to all every day. For more information about the Saint Louis Art Museum, call 314.721.0072 or visit

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